Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

There is very little I can add to everything that's been said about this marvelous book. First the indie booksellers warmed to it, then the reviewers, then the chain stores and now Oprah (insert sound of heavenly choir here) so millions will read it and deservedly so. This debut novel will be read forever.

In many ways, this is Hamlet retold but set in 20th century Wisconsin and featuring a shitload of dogs; way more than I remember in Hamlet, at least, and I checked.

Wroblewski has created some real beauty on the pages though his gift for description does slow things down and you have to work to get through these 500+ pages but there's nothing wrong with that. To finish the story of Edgar, his dead father, his evil uncle, Almondine, who might be the greatest dog ever, and the many other Sawtelle dogs, is vastly rewarding and emotionally rich.

As for Oprah,
it only took 61 previous tries but I knew she'd eventually come around and see things my way. You go, girl.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pigeons: the fascinating saga of the world's most revered and reviled bird

Before I go to dinner this evening and return this book to the pigeon enthusiast friend who lent it to me, I'm putting in a WAY overdue post because I see I haven't posted since late August. Even I'm surprised and I was behind then! For shame Book Blog Boy (say that 3 times fast)!!

As a self-proclaimed bird nerd, I borrowed the book because I had hoped to learn enough to change how I feel about pigeons.
It isn't that I like them or dislike them--they're just here, there and everywhere, they aren't terribly pretty or engaging and they seem kind of dumb. In truth, they just don't really do much for me. I mean, wrens they ain't. (Wrens hold a particular fascination for me.)

I hoped this book would give me a new understanding and new found respect for the bird that most everyone hates; those boids we often refer to as "rats with wings".

This is what I learned:
  • Pigeons have a vast and long history with humans.
  • They can travel incredible distances at incredible speed, whether they're racing, delivering messages or just migrating.
  • The people that get into pigeons, REALLY get into pigeons, often to the point of creepy obsession.
  • They're not really dirtier nor do they carry more disease than any other animals; theysimply shit a lot, they shit big for their size and they shit near us since their habitat is our habitat and that disgusts us.
My biggest disappointment wasn't with the birds; it was with the author. Despite the blurbs from big names, the book reads like a bunch of Parade magazine pieces and not very well-written ones, if there are well-written Parade magazine pieces (Would those be People magazine pieces?). Blechman fails to make us care about the pigeons, the pigeon racers, the pigeon breeders, the pigeon hunters or the other pigeon devotees in the book; most just seem kind of nuts and a little sad. Oh, and his transitions at the chapter endings are atrocious! (People will never hire him with transitions like these.)

There may be a better book on pigeons out there. Should you care to seek it out,
do so and skip this one.