If you got here because I commented and you were directed to this blog, it is because Blogger will not show both blogs. So you can get to my Pat's Posts, by clicking this miscellany, the first blog while this is just about books.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Read this back in August-September 2017, finally posting here.  It was another Best seller back when and an Oprah Book Club selection, published in 2008.  Another I thought I might read someday so when I found it so cheap at the book sale, scooped it.  Not all that interesting to me, but anyone who has interest in dog training and or mutes will find it more enhancing.   Writing is very good, almost lyrical at times, always descriptive and not overly wordy, 562 pages, and the author indicates it was a long time work in progress. A unique feature of this novel is that each chapter has a distinct title.  

The prologue opens in 1952 in Pusan, South Korea, a world away from northern Wisconsin, the setting of the novel. 
Inside flap
 "After dark the rain began to fall again but he had already made up his mind to go and anyway it had been raining for weeks.  He waved off the rickshaw coolies clustered near the dock and walked all the way from the naval base, following the scant directions he'd been given, through the crowds in the Kweng Li market square, past the vendors selling roosters in crude rattan crates and pigs" heads and  poisonous looking fish lying blue and gutted and gaping on racks, past gray octopi, in glass jars, past old women harking kimchee and bulkogi, until he crossed the Tong Gang on the Bridge of Woes, the last landmark he knew."   Such an opening is intriguing and gives a flavor of the descriptive alluring writing.  

Some other writing for a better flavor of this text:  Page 23  "Though her foster childhood had sensitized her to familial loss, the need to keep her family whole was in her nature from the start.  To explain what happened later by any single event would deny either predisposition or the power of the world to shape.  "

Or how about this describing the sighting of an otter, lyrical, "  Page 25, "They saw an otter once, floating belly up in the floodwater, feet pointed downstream, grooming the fur on its chest--a little self contained canoe of an animal."  

For my taste there was too much about dog trainoing and I was getting bored until his father's accident happened about pages 122-123 when I knew things would change significantly but not how.  

The description of grief is memorable, Page 161, "There followed for each of them good days and bad.  And often Edgar's best moments coincided with his mother's worst.  She could be cheerful and determinedly energetic for days on end and then one morning he would walk downstairs and find her hunched at the kitchen table, haggard and red-eyed.  Once lapsed, nothing could deliver her.  It worked the same with him.  Just when normal life felt almost possible--when the world held some kind of order, meaning, even loveliness the prismatic spray of light through an icicle, the stillness of a sunrise, some small thing would go awry and the veil of optimism was torn away, the barren world revealed.  They learned somehow, to wait those times out.  There was no cure, no answer, no reparation."  

Page 257 continues about grief and what's real:  "Edgar, do you actually think that how long a person grieves is a measure of how much they loved someone?  There's no rule book that says how to do this.  She laughed bitterly.  Wouldn't that be great?  No decisions to make.  Everything laid right out for us.  But there's no such thing.  You want facts, don't you?  Rules.  Proof.  Your're like your father that way.  Just because a thing can't be logged, charted, and summarized doesn't mean it isn't real.  Half the time we walk around in love with the idea of a thing instead of the reality of it.  But sometimes things don't turn our that way.  You have to pay attention to what's real, what's in the world.  Not some imaginary alternative, as if it's a choice we could make."  

Page 457-8 abppput chance and coincidence. "So much of the world was governed by chance.  If they had left Henry's house a day earlier they might have been in Canada that very moment, maybe even at Starchild Colony.  Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive.  You swam in a river of chance and coincidence.  You clung to the happiest accidents--the rest you float by."  

And near the end of the novel, " "The after image of the fire-flash twisted in the air before him like a violent snake."

I give this a 4**** althought he subject was not to my liking the writing kept my interest.  

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