Thursday, February 19, 2009

Edgar Sawtelle

Seldom have I felt cheated at reaching the end of a long novel, and David Wroblewski’s “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” is long. Too long.

Early in the reading, I snuggled into this book and felt comforted by the author’s poetic phrasing and graceful storytelling. I can’t recall another work in which the characters of dogs were so well developed, or in which the thought processes of dogs were so well drawn and explained.

Unfortunately, the human characters in this novel are much weaker, their behavior most often incomprehensible. Midway through the book, the author seems to wander off, just as his title character does. The wandering goes on for more than 100 pages before descending into melodrama and a hyperbolic climax that is too disappointing to be even laughable.

This might have been a great little book had the writer spared us his attempt at a 20th-century Hamlet and what he must have figured were the obligatory tornadoes, fires, ghosts and murders. The Wisconsin farm, and all of its beauty, life, love and heartache, would have been enough.

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