Friday, September 19, 2008


So Oprah picked Edgar Sawtelle. This one has already gotten a lot of love, but the trustworthy Citizen Reader earlier said it was not all. So I am going to stick with the wonderful and sad Suite Francaise.


Anonymous said...

I have to weigh in on this one. I love CR's blog but she (i) doesn't like dogs, (ii) doesn't like fiction, and (iii) didn't like A Thousand Acres. Perhaps not the best guide to a fictional retelling of Shakespeare that adds the dog-trainer relationship as a central theme.

Sawtelle is worth a read. It suffers from some of the usual first novel problems (namely the 100 or so pages that could have been cut). The ending i weak and you can see that he feels the needs to track Hamlet too closely there. But the writing is good and at times great. Wrobliewski writes very well about nature, a skill that eludes lots of writers and produces a lot of turgid prose (recall the awful Snow Falling on Cedars - man, that was a bad book -for an example of how not to do this). He very cleverly nails "the play's the thing" scene from Hamlet. He takes a big risk that an established novelist might decline - he manages to take an objectively ridiculous story and make it moving and believable (cf. Hamlet). And if any part of this book stands up over time, it will be the dog-related passages, including those told from the dogs' point of view. The last of those is particularly good and he should probably have ended the book there. Although then you'd have the same crowd that carped about the ending of "No Country for Old Men" complaining about a lack of denouement (and I do NOT include CR in that category).

This is not the best book of fiction you will read this year (The Yiddish Policeman's Union is, IMO) and it doesn't belong on the top 10 lists on which it will certainly appear. But it is well done and different, two adjectives that don't often describe mainstream fiction these days. Don't let Oprah's endorsement put you off - this one is worth a look.


Tripp said...

I actually am ambivalent on whether an Oprah pick is good or bad. Sometimes I like them, sometimes not. I think for awhile she tended towards weepy books that were not my style, but I like other picks.

As for the dogs, my question is how much do you have to like dogs? I like them fine, but I don't think reading about them is all that great. The Hamlet piece is more intriguing to me.

Also Yiddish Policeman's is the best? Wow, I quite liked it, but I am not sure I can go that far.