Monday, June 9, 2008

Going to the dogs

Most novelists spend their lives working in relative obscurity, but occasionally a lucky and talented one breaks through to best-sellerdom or even stardom. Sometimes the stardom is deserved, as for instance in the case of V.S. Naipaul, who despite being derided as a bitter reactionary produced one book, Guerrillas, that probably should be considered one of the best novels of the past 60 years.

The hand of best-sellerdom, if not lasting fame, may be about to touch first-time novelist David Wroblewski, whose The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is reviewed in fulsome terms in the June 8 Washington Post Book World. The reviewer, Ron Charles, describes it as captivating, tender, suspenseful, grand, and unforgettable. Set in rural Wisconsin in the 70s, the story centers on a mute teenaged boy and his dogs, and has plot elements from Hamlet thrown in for good measure (though the reviewer hastens to assure that "You don't need to catch the Hamlet references, and if you do, that won't sap the novel's suspense").

Here's the thing, though: Am I going to shell out 26 bucks for a novel, no matter how captivating, whose central characters include dogs? Somehow I doubt it, but if the need for escape from the heat and from the generalized gloom pundits sense to be encroaching becomes acute, I may change my mind.

In the meantime, I'm braced for an onslaught of outraged reactions from dog lovers and fans of Jack London.

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