Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

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I am very torn about this book, on one hand I couldn't get enough of it, on the other there were times I felt like skimming (and I am NOT a skimmer by any stretch of the imagination).  The writing was tre magnifique so that bumps it up a few notches but the story was a little slow moving, and let me think.... Ummm... Familiar?  Yes yes, that's it, it was very familiar, I think I have read it before... Now let me think... Who was the author?  Oh that's right Shakespeare!  This story was a modern day version of Hamlet... but with well trained dogs instead of kins men, and mid-western farm folk instead of royalty.  And though the story line was almost exact, the main character and the fabulous writing made up for the predictable plot line.  I know you can always argue that almost every modern day story has a little Shakespeare in it; I mean the man was the foundation on which modern day literature was built, but this story followed the plot of Hamlet so close I was waiting for the main character to break out in a soliloquy.  But alas, that wouldn't happen because unlike Shakespeare's Hamlet, David Wrobelwski's protagonist was a little boy named Edgar and he was MUTE! 

So here is the plot line...  Do I really need to tell you?  Okay I'll make is short and sweet.  Edgar is mute (has been from birth, genius idea making this boy mute, in my opinion), he lives on a farm with his mother Trudy and father Gar, and their family dog Almondine (Almondine is cast as Ophilia if you'd like to know).  The family breeds a fictional boutique style dog (think a cross breed like labradoodles but these are more shepherd type dogs).  These dogs are known as The Sawtelle Dogs and these loyal mutts are extremely well trained.  Anyway, Edgar's uncle Claude moves to town and he comes off as a rough neck kinda fella.  Then mysteriously Edgar's father dies, his mother falls in love with Claude and Edgar knows there was foul play involved.    Edgar goes a little nuts runs away with a pack of dogs into the wilderness and we know that if we were reading Hamlet that the end doesn't come out all hunky dory.  There is a ghost, there is a broken hearted female (dog), there is poison, there is fighting, there is death.

Now don't get me wrong, there are some twists and unexpected turns along the way but this is a LONG book and I felt like there were lots of pages to tell a not very long story.  If you read my blog regularly you know how much I love a well written piece of work and this was just that.  It was a masterpiece between the covers (and the cover wasn't too shabby either).  If you like books about dogs, if you like Shakespeare, if you like stories about simple mid-west farm folks, if you are in a book club, then you will probably like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.  So read it and let me know if you are as conflicted with it as I am.

BOOK vs. MOVIE: I did a little research, as I always do for this section, and found out that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is in fact being adapted to a screenplay by William Broyles Jr. for Universal Studios and will be produced by Oprah and Tom Hanks through their production companies Harpo and Playtone.  I would LOVE to see this book made into a well done movie, I may really like the screen version better than the book or at least be less conflicted by it.  It would be fascinating to see how they would portray Edgar seeing as he is mute and for the vast majority of the book he is alone with a bunch of dogs that also don't say much. :)

RATING:  Ummmm.....  Lets say 3.75 Stars (I have never given a fractional rating before)

3 More Reviews of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wrobelwski
ISBN: 9780061374227
Pages: 576

If you liked this book than read: From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz

Sunday, February 21, 2010


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Oh Vladimir Nabokov you dirty, dirty, witty, genius you.  You had me laughing, you had me gagging, you had me hanging on your every lushes word with your masterpiece Lolita.  I was told that Lolita was a must read and so it went on my list of books to be read in 2010.  I have to admit that when I first realized what the story was about I was pretty much repulsed.  I was listening to the audio book and I almost shut it off but something (probably a perverse curiosity of where the story could possibly be going or the narrators witty and poetic dialogue) kept me from hitting the eject button on the CD player.  I couldn't believe that the content in the book was actually published in the mid 1950s, as it is scandalous even by todays standards!!  With vocabulary that one might encounter in a Harlequin Romance or a dirty movie, you can be sure that I blushed every now and then.  But despite the off colored subject matter I can't say enough how beautiful the words in this book are.  I LOVED the contrast between the ugly story and the beautiful writing.

Lolita is narrated by Humbert Humbert, a European literary scholar that when you first meet him is in prison.  The story that he tells is actually his written statement to the jury that will be used in his trial, where he is being accused for murder and statutory rape.  His statement takes you through his young years when he was 13 years old and living in Europe.  That summer he meets a beautiful girl named Annabelle and he falls in love and enters into a young love affair that starts to become physical as some young relationships do.   But right before Annabelle and Humbert Humbert consummate their young relationship, summer ends and then Annabelle tragically dies.  This affects H.H. so badly that he becomes obsessed with 13 year old girls to replace the feeling he had with his dear Annabelle.  Obviously this starts to become quite a nasty little obsession as he gets older and older.  Soon he moves to the US and struggles with his attraction to young girls (nymphets as he calls them), he finds himself in and out of psychiatric facilities and eventually he finds himself in a small little town and boarding with a single woman Charlotte and her dangerously prepubescent daughter Doloris (Lolita) Haze.  H.H marries Doloris's mother all the while lusting heavily for this 13 year old girl.  When Charlotte dies H.H. jumps at the chance to become Lolita's "Daddy" and he pretty much detains her in his car as he travels around the country for a year with this little girl carrying on an illicit love affair.  Surprisingly precocious Lolita is well versed in physical relationships (some encounters at summer camp) and she becomes a somewhat willing party in this "romance".  Eventually Lolita leaves H.H. and he goes a little insane.

Before you write this book off as Classic Smut I have to say that the writing is superb and as I mentioned earlier the witty dialogue had me riveted despite the content.  I would absolutely recommend this book to certain people (I understand that this isn't everybody's cup 'o tea.)

BOOK vs. MOVIE: This book as been adapted to film twice once in 1962, then again in 1997.  And as shocking as it that the book was written and published in the 1950s I am equally astounded that they made the film version in the 1960s!!!!  I haven't seen either film adaption but I have put them on my "to see" list.  I would like to see both versions so I can compare the different time eras and how they tackle this sensitive subject.

RATING: 4 Stars

3 More Reviews of Lolita:

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov {Audio Book}
ISBN: 9780739322062
10 Discs {11 hours 32 minutes}

If you liked this book I really don't know what to recommend.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In Cold Blood

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I wasn't sure what to expect from of this book.  I am not a huge "true crime" fan.  And the only thing I know about Truman Capote is Breakfast at Tiffany's (the movie not even the novella), and I was sure that In Cold Blood wasn't going to give me any quirky characters such as Holly Golightly.  So I had no expectations and because of that I think, I enjoyed In Cold Blood... A lot.  And I added Truman Capote into my medium length list of fabulous writers.  The story was written with such a great voice that I could picture every horrible detail unfolding in front of me.  What I found very interesting is that Truman Capote took a true story and wrote it in novel form (he called it a Nonfictional Novel).  Capote made the real people involved in the event characters with thoughts, feelings, and habits.  Which I find ironic because authors so many times try to make their characters passable as real people.  Capote made this true account into a well rounded story not a dry recollection of interviews and recorded court room scenes.

The plot is very very simple, two bad men, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, kill a prominent well loved family (the Clutters) in cold blood (hence the title) in a sleepy little town in Kansas.  Then these hooligans hop from state to state and eventually get caught, sentenced, and hung.  Don't worry I didn't spoil anything for you because the genius of this book is that you know that what is to come from the very beginning.  You know that yes the Clutters are killed, yes you know who the murders are, and yes you know they get caught before you even open the book.  So it really isn't a "who done it" book but a book about a crime, the criminals, and the events that lead up to their arrest and execution.  Even though you know all the details up front you are still kept in suspense as the little details unfold.  Something that I think is really interesting is that Capote makes you feel a little sorry for one or both of the killers at different points in the book.  Even though these boys did the unthinkable you still are routing for them to maybe not get the death sentence up to the moment they are taking the walk to up the stairs of the scaffold.  At least I was and if you aren't routing for them then please don't judge my character... ;)

All in all I believe I would highly recommend this book to many people.  If you like mystery, history, psychology, or thrillers, I think you would like In Cold Blood.  Also, I am so excited to be introduced (more formally) to the works of Truman Capote.  I will absolutely seek out more of his masterpieces in the near future.

BOOK vs. MOVIE: There as been 2 versions of this story made into a movie.  Once in 1967 and then again in 1996 as a made of TV movie.  I don't think I am going to go out of my way to see either one because I feel like the writing was so vivid that a movie couldn't do it justice.

RATING: 4 Stars

3 More reviews on In Cold Blood:

In Cold Blood {Audio Book}
ISBN 9780739333648
12 CDs {14 hours 27 minutes}

If you like this book then read: Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi