[Reading] ➬ The Story of Edgar Sawtelle ➳ David Wroblewski – Dolove.info
This is an extraordinary novel, Hamlet in the North Woods of Wisconsin Wroblewski was very fond of the stories of Shakespeare as a kid, if not necessarily the actual text, and it is clear that he carried with him the knowledge of tragedy Edgar opens with a mysterious transaction in the Orient in which a man seeks out a purveyor of a particularly effective poison That will feature large later in the story Edgar Hamlet is a boy born without the power of speech to a family father Gar and mother Trudy engaged in the business of raising very special dogs, so called Sawtelle dogs The author made up the breed Edgar is accompanied by his faithful companion, Almondine, born only a short while prior to the boy She is a wonderful character and I wish there was of her in this book She is Ophelia Edgar is a hard worker who manages to become quite adept at his dog training It is his life There is a mystical seer in the village, Ida Paine, who can be counted on to say some sooths She is so spooky she is almost comedic, but her purpose is other Finally, the household is joined by Claude Claudius , John s brother He very much reminded me of Iago, and even a bit of Richard the Third as well as of his Hamlet inspiration Claude and John never got on well, and we can expect of the same even though they are teamed, for a time at least, in working the dog business The authorThis is one of the most moving books I have ever read Edgar is an immediately sympathetic character, beset by malevolent forces and unable to make himself heard While one can see early on that the Shakespearean DNA will lead to a dark place, the journey there is magical Do not be put off by the impending troubles There are triumphs as well as defeats in store Wroblewski was also very fond of Kipling s Jungle Book as a kid and Edgar takes on the role of Mowgli as well as that of Hamlet There is immense charm to accompany the danger when Edgar Mowgli is afoot in the wood jungle with his personal pack It is shocking that this is Wroblewski s first novel It sings with the language of a master Read it aloud and hear for yourself You will come to love Edgar, ache for Almondine, weep for some, smile at the kindness of a few, rage at others This is not just another book, but an emotional engagement that brings with it the satisfaction of literary content and beauty of language If you have not had the opportunity to travel with Edgar, seek him out and howl with joy and sorrow This is a great, great book EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s personal website His Twitter account does not appear to have been touched in a couple of years and I found no FB page by him In his site, you might enjoy the tangents page, for a diversity of interesting information and links PS Wroblewski will be returning to the North Woods in his next book, telling the story of Edgar s ancestors Edgar took him ten years to write I don t think the prequel will take quite so long, as he will, hopefully, have made enough money from Edgar to allow him to spend full time writing I can t wait.PPS I happened across a very nice interview with Wroblewski on Bookbrowse.com And several years later, I stumbled upon this interview with OprahOne final interview, on Vulture.com I guess I have to be the spoilsport here I did not like this book.Let me just say straight out that anthropomorphism does not sit well with me I almost jumped ship on page 30, where the story hopped over to the POV of Almondine the dog and had her thinking and reasoning like a human being I love dogs I ve had quite a few in my lifetime I speak dog well, we relate to each other well But I think they lose their own innate dignity when people try to turn them into people A dog is a lovely thing It is not an inferior human being It is not superior human being It is a dog And that is enough.However, I soldiered on To its credit, the book is smoothly written Serviceable prose, even if one only very occasionally encounters the kind of writing that lifts the heart Most of the writer s attempts to wax poetic were so over the top that they created a fog of obscurity that spread over the entire novel Fuzzy writing fuzzy thinking.To hang an inferior book on the bones of Hamlet does not make it a better book The Hamlet connection is unnecessary and interferes with our ability to see the book for itself,and unfortunately invites a comparison in which the imitator necessarily comes off far on the short side.I found the ending particularly irritating Not the tragedy, but the idea that the hope for the future lies in the dogs Hope of the world in dogs That thought wouldn t have crossed my mind but for the overdone hype of the entire book concerning the characteristics of dogs Nevertheless it did cross my mind and it diminishes the book by its pat striving for a happy ending.The part of the book that worked best for me was when Edgar and the dogs were staying with Henry, an endearing man and the most believable and sympathetic character in the book This was one of the few parts where for the most part I didn t feel as if I were having to crank my suspension of disbelief ostentatiously into place.As for the ghosts Don t even get me started Suffice it to say that the book could have been written to work without them But then the author would have had to drop the Hamlet crutch, wouldn t he This is a very well written book with serious flaws I cannot fathom what the point of the book is or why it s getting such good press The author doesn t seem to understand the relationship between story and the flow of ideas He skips over important details such as why anyone does anything they do in the story What does all that dog training have to do with the story And someone please explain the old woman at the grocery store Great books, and even just good ones, use incident to explain motivation and to carry forward the ideas the book is trying to convey This book is filled with incident that has no bearing on anything and the author carries the story forward with the help of ghosts, strange storms, and sudden unexplained shifts in the character s understanding of what is happening In reality, I kept imagining that it was really a 576 page short story It is certainly not a novel in the traditional sense I think the buzz is because of the nice dogs True, when I was a boy I had a really great purebred Collie who was really a human in disguise, and I still remember him very fondly, forty years on But even Brody, my dog, could not warrant a pointless 576 page short story. Anyone can base their work on a Shakespearean tragedy Go ahead try it The goal is to make it speak for itself This novel has no voice It s stunningly inauthentic in its modesty and brazen in its ambition This poorly conceived and executed book may appeal to a shocking number of readers, but it doesn t make it worth one of the dogs that inspired it.I feel like Joe the Plumber in Israel I have a thousand questions in my mind yet I can t think of the right one Well, I can how can so many people possibly have raced through such a supremely tiresome book Why does Wroblewski seem interested in describing the chattering leaves than in explaining how Edgar seems so isolated from anyone his age despite his supposed popularity at school Was it necessary to include a passage in second person that had probably been an exercise for an MFA course Why bring up the implausible news coverage of the Starchild colony only to drop it for than a hundred pages I haven t gotten to where it s mentionned again, but I m sure it will be miraculously resurrected sooner or later Why has nothing yet been said of the type of people who get Sawtelle dogs, for what purpose, and how they learn of them Admittedly, I would have enjoyed reading this had I owned a copy and been able to mark up the margins with my distress calls Help SOS Invisible mother Starchild colony on TV I m still uncertain as to how I managed to read up to p 284 without committing an offense against the book though my pug Sophie did chew a corner of its front cover, which I see as proof this book insulted her intelligence as well But I will say, it s much bearable to follow when I m reading it to myself rather than hearing it read to me, making it easier to hide from his purposeful evasiveness and unnecessary detail all for what purpose To blind readers from the cardboard characters and juvenile efforts at seeming literary The writing reminds me of a short story I wrote in the fourth grade in which a dinosaur was rescued by a young child, who fed it orange sticks hint carrots and thick white water nothing dirty, just milk The book contains so many clumsy flashes of would be poetry The sapphire sky floated clouds made yellow by the sun The Impala, neon blue or some such awfulness Wroblewski inspired Frank to think up this beautiful garbage the pink honesty of the moon s whisper Think about it it s meaningless So is most of this book No worries, I ll finish this book the next time I m stranded on a deserted island But would someone mind informing Wroblewski that humans, however empathetic of animals, do not trot to and fro I will not think of animal shelters, I will not think of animal shelters In fact, I did end up finishing the book before I incurred late fees and the wrath of Wroblewski s rabid fans But no, I don t see how dogs are the future of humanity My three dogs can t answer that one, either. Stayed up half the night finishing it and I really can t be objective about this book I said earlier how I was enjoying it purely as a reader and not a critic, but it goes deeper than that It s like Wroblewski had some kind of infrared Jungian checklist and somehow managed to find out all my childhood fantasies benevolent and wise dog companion nursemaid Check Super intelligent semi wild pack of devoted dogs that sleep with you at night Check I guess the only thing worse than being raised by wolves is wishing you were as a kid I always had a fantasy of a wolf pack appearing on my street to take me away I wanted a dog who would look out for me like Lassie So this was like pardon the crudeness of the simile finding the porn that gets you off just right.Even though there were problems a series of transitions in the last quarter of the book that didn t work well, and the last part in the barn wasn t the climax or catharsis that I think the book wanted, and yeah, it was fat as a tick on a dog s ear But that didn t matter much to me, honestly I was so emotionally involved with the characters it was like being in love, in the way logic just flies out the window for a while And it s been such a long time since a book did that to me I gave in, I did, I swooned.Plus there s a lot that was just right His language is nicely suited to the tale, elegant and tuned into the natural world Obviously I m a dog person so I m slanted that way in the first place, but I thought he wrote the dogs well It s always a treat to read someone who s so carefully observed something that you have too And much of the book flowed beautifully But mostly it was the characters that moved me, people and dogs alike Not necessarily their inner lives or motivations, which fluctuated all over the board in terms of plausibility just the fact of them They ll stay with me a while Lord, I cried so hard over Almondine I had to go sit outside for a few minutes with my arm around my own flesh and blood dog.And the very last scene just called up my inner 8 year old and made her happy I couldn t evaluate that dispassionately if I tried.In the end I don t really know what to say about this book that anyone else might relate to All I know is it transported me, and it was a good ride. I was SOOOO disappointed in this book The only reason I gave it even one star is because of his depiction of the lovely dogs in the story I felt like the author went overboard trying to wax poetic to the point where I didn t know what he was talking about, even being unsure of what the progression of events was The entire plot builds to a very important resolution THAT NEVER HAPPENS What a sell out It felt like climbing a long flight of stairs with the anticipation of finding a beautiful room there, and just as you are about to take that last step, someone jumps out and knocks you in the head with a club and you go tumbling down the stairs I was so mad I couldn t go to sleep after finishing it So there you go Oprah doesn t know what she s talking about. I waged a personal debate for this five star rating, arguing what exactly makes a book great With every question, I returned to the story itself has the ability to lift a book above average efforts The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is just that, a great story A modern retelling of Hamlet Certainly, the author availed himself of the plot to frame his tale of a mute boy and a remarkable group of dogs, but there is much to be enjoyed among these pages.There are the languid narrative passages, vast and breathtaking paragraphs describing the north Wisconsin woods, the Sawtelle farm, the intensity of training dogs and the detailed geneology required to classify a breed Make no mistake, if you like a fast read, this book isn t for you, the author s finely drawn sentences are meant to slow the reader, to step out of your hectic reality and allow yourself to dream.As an aspiring writer myself, I understood how the author labored over every sentence, every word choice, he wanted everything to be perfect That he was in labor for ten years with his story makes one wonder what he must of felt when he finished.Some might argue the necessity for such extended prose Are all those expanded descriptions really helping the story Who the fuck am I to even dare that question It all comes down to the story and when I am nearly breathless as a story comes to its inevitable end, such criticisms seem pointless I shuddered at the two typos pages 164 430 , and for a time, those oversights in editing threatened a great story Edgar Sawtelle is an unforgettable character, like Huck Finn, or Ignatius O Reilly, or Holly Golightly He ll be an old friend for the rest of my life. Born Mute, Speaking Only In Sign, Edgar Sawtelle Leads An Idyllic Life With His Parents On Their Farm In Remote Northern Wisconsin For Generations, The Sawtelles Have Raised And Trained A Fictional Breed Of Dog Whose Thoughtful Companionship Is Epitomized By Almondine, Edgar S Lifelong Friend And Ally But With The Unexpected Return Of Claude, Edgar S Paternal Uncle, Turmoil Consumes The Sawtelles Once Peaceful Home When Edgar S Father Dies Suddenly, Claude Insinuates Himself Into The Life Of The Farm And Into Edgar S Mother S Affections Grief Stricken And Bewildered, Edgar Tries To Prove Claude Played A Role In His Father S Death, But His Plan Backfires Spectacularly Forced To Flee Into The Vast Wilderness Lying Beyond The Farm, Edgar Comes Of Age In The Wild, Fighting For His Survival And That Of The Three Yearling Dogs Who Follow Him But His Need To Face His Father S Murderer And His Devotion To The Sawtelle Dogs Turn Edgar Ever Homeward David Wroblewski Is A Master Storyteller, And His Breathtaking Scenes The Elemental North Woods, The Sweep Of Seasons, An Iconic American Barn, A Fateful Vision Rendered In The Falling Rain Create A Riveting Family Saga, A Brilliant Exploration Of The Limits Of Language, And A Compulsively Readable Modern Classic I had such high hopes for this book Just read these descriptive passages This will be his earliest memory.Red light, morning light High ceiling canted overhead Lazy click of toenails on wood Between the honey colored slats of the crib a whiskery muzzle slides forward until its cheeks pull back and a row of dainty front teeth bare themselves in a ridiculous grin The nose quivers The velvet snout dimples.Fine, dark muzzle fur Black nose, leather of lacework creases, comma of nostrils flexing with each breath As slowly as he can, he exhales, feigning sleep, but despite himself his breath hitches At once, the muzzle knows he is awake It snorts Angles right and left Withdraws Outside the crib, Almondine s forequarters appear Her head is reared back, her ears cocked forward.A cherry brindled eye peers back at him.He pitches to his side, rubs his hand across the blanket, blows a breath in her face Her ears flick back She stomps a foot He blows again and she withdraws and bows and woofs, low in her chest, quiet and deep..Hearing it, he forgets and presses his face against the rails to see her, all of her, take her inside him with his eyes, and before he can move, she smears her tongue across his nose and forehead I mean, comma of nostrils Such a perfect dog nose description I expected this stuff through the whole book The book opens with a mysterious prologue and even mysterious description of the farm and particularly the barn Then an even MORE mysterious kind of wolf puppy is discovered that somehow predicts something then dies The novel lays out a nice plot family raises dogs has created their own breed not because of the way it looks but the way it behaves They won t sell to anyone one until it is an adult and is properly trained Gar and Trudy try to have children, Trudy has several miscarriages, and finally after the mysterious wolf cub is found and dies they have a boy who is not deaf, but is completely mute He has this marvelous relationship with the dogs, and a particularly close relationship with the above described Almondine There is a tiny hint of magic as the plot progresses just enough to make you warm and cautious at the same time But somewhere between when the watery image of his dead dad appears and Page, the vet falls down the steps and dies and Edgar and 3 of his dogs run away, the book just falls apart for me And during the rest of the read I hoped that the next page would pull away from the tedium that had set in and get back to business and answer some of the mysterious questions that the author had set floating around in his misty prose But it did not happen I either did not get it or it was not delivered I struggled through the last half wishing I had followed Mike s lead and stopped after the first 100 pages How sad. I know many people adore this book and it had lots of hype some years ago via Oprah, but I m afraid I didn t love it It reads easily enough and flows well The story is straight forward as well Edgar Sawtelle is born mute and is the only child of Edgar and Trudy Sawtelle They own a farm and breed dogs, very special dogs known as Sawtelle dogs , which they then sell It s all very idyllic until Edgar s uncle turns up from abroad bringing family tensions and history The problem is that all the hype and the info on the back and in the quotes in the front tell you it s based on Hamlet and it is as you realise from quite early on in the book, even without being told You know then that it isn t going to end well and Wroblewski sticks fairly closely into the plot despite a very brief foray into King Lear , even if some of the characters from the original are played by some of the dogs This doesn t work well, particularly with the Ophelia character a dog called Almondine The reasons for the tensions between the brothers is just not clear and very unconvincing The villain Claude is very two dimensional, underworked and there is too little there to make him believeable He just appears to be psychopathic and it is never clear why or how too little nuance I learnt than I ever wanted or needed to know about dog training and it s way too long and rambling It s also over sentimental if you re going to rewrite a tragedy and keep it a tragedy, don t add loveable dogs into the mix And as for the main female character Trudy , she must be onr of the most unlucky characters in literature Portraying Hamlet as mute is interesting, but the idea doesn t go anywhere as Edgar spends most of his time relating to the dogs and as a result the dogs I think are given over complex thoughts and reactions The Hamlet angle was a mistake there was the germ of a good if sentimental story here, but throw in the plot of the play and you have a recipe for disaster.