[Reading Room] Subsoil by Nicholson Baker

This story was an absolute delight: an agricultural historian is putting off getting-down-to-work on his publication with one last research trip. Feeling restless with his usual accommodations, he tries a recommended ‘bed & breakfast’ for a change….and he gets it!

I like humor and I like twists (and I love The Twilight Zone), so I loved this story. It starts with a slow burn, but the details are so delightful that you can’t resist reading on to find out what this pompous little man and his odd new hosts get up to. I get the impression the author had some fun researching obscure agricultural equipment and skewering the academic propensity to obsess over minutiae, but he does both with a relatively light hand. It’s funny but not labored, and beneath it all the mystery ticks on.

The climax is surprising and then, once you’re in on the secret, the author lets you see the ending coming; lets you unwrap it along with him as it happens. Really, really satisfying. And a little bit evil. 🙂