Archive for November, 2014

Things I Read Last Winter

This protracted illness has hindered my pursuit of trail running and crossfit and exuberant evening socialization, but it has been quite marvelous for my novel consumption. Supplemented by the excellent taste of my pet sitting clients, I’ve been indulging in Steig Larsson, Cormac McCarthy, Deepak Chopra, and, most recently, Ishmael Beah’s chilling memoir of an African child soldier.

Stopping by the library to print up some flyers last week, I dallied a little too long into the Recommended New Fiction section. My weakness for jungle men overrode my literary judgment, and I found myself surreptitiously employing the self-checkout and sandwiching my find between flyers on the way to the car. Suffice to say the book entailed an appalling attempt at paleontological discourse, a generous amount of text devoted to Tarzan’s physique, and a frustrating lack of logic regarding which species of African wildlife inhabit which biomes. I polished it off with more relish than I should probably admit to.

After that dalliance, I was looking to slake a different sort of fantasy (the sort where Robin Hood helps me run my animal shelter), I delved into a dog novel borrowed over Thanksgiving from my mom’s bookshelf. Dog novels are by their nature very hit or miss if you’re emotionally involved with canines. Marley and Me made me deeply uncomfortable, while Art of Racing in the Rain was an absolute, tear-stained delight. A Dog’s Purpose managed to illicit both responses, as a few of the dog’s reincarnations were as sweetly moving as the others were painfully cliché. Merle’s Door improved upon the standard world’s-best-dog story with Kerasote’s profound philosophy and gorgeous prose, and was deeply moving despite human characters that weren’t the least bit compelling. And well we’re at it, can you really ever top Old Yeller?

Once the compelling writing won me over and calmed/appeased my dog book wariness, I raced through the first three quarters of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. A mute farm boy who becomes a uniquely talented dog trainer, an unusually realistic cast of dogs, a tasteful dash of nature writing, AND a murder mystery to boot – oh, hell yeah, sign me up for the box set. And the complexity of the characters was downright refreshing after that frivolous jungle romance. The story was especially fitting when read amidst my week’s melange of four dogs. With Penny alternatively licking my ears and snoring, Wilbur committed to his status as little spoon, Griffin persistently attempting to lie on my head for unknown reasons, and Keeyah twitching dreamily while using my calves for a pillow, I really had no choice but to surrender to a half-day glut of reading.

Finishing off the book late this morning, I found myself flinging it off the bed, snorting as it thumped conclusively on the fur-covered carpet, as my shock melted into wounded horror. David Wroblewski, how could you build up my trust for four hundred and sixty three pages, bring the whole thing so tantalizingly close to a satisfying conclusion, than do THAT to me? As far as I’m concerned, tragedies are strictly forbidden in fiction unless artfully executed in a didactic and satisfying manner. Well, I shouldn’t say more in case you, dear reader, are planning on self-flagellating with this cruel book, but apparently I should not have strayed so far from Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan. Then again, if you’re looking for a fantastic read, enjoy your heart out until page 463 and then call me so I can contrive and share with you an alternative ending. I would also recommend this tactic if you are interested in reading Seabiscuit: all characters retire happily, opening a horse rescue with their winnings, and Seabiscuit dies painlessly in his sleep of excessive carrot consumption at the age of 42.

jesus horse