Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First Book Club

I can't believe it. I am finally a member of a book club! Thanks to Mandi for enlisting me. Amidst my usual frenzy of mystery and YA novel-reading, I have now delved into The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski which is the book the club is reading. I had to get to page 411 in order to post (because it is an online club) and have now made it.
Well. Someone should offer DW an honourary Canadian citizenship. Or maybe he is actually a secret Canadian who has sneaked over the border to Wisconsin or Colorado or wherever to live. I bet he is penpals with Alastair McLeod and Miriam Toews and re-reads Margaret Laurence for fun. Because this book is just the sort of grim little agricultural tale that I associate with Canadian literary classics.
Yes, it is an amazing work of art, beautiful, readable, can't put it down... and I am sure I will never forget this experience. The book became somewhat more enjoyable once I realized that every single thing was going to turn out bad so I stopped getting my hopes up for Edgar and his dogs and his family. I get that this is a tragedy and Mandi gave me the Hamlet hint before I started. Yet even though this is such a good book, I wonder if there is something amiss when you have to tell yourself to stop identifying with the main character and just step back and admire the writer's accomplishment in weaving his mesmerising tale.
I know I have been reading it like a mystery, at times, hoping that Edgar will piece together the clues and be able to make a difference. But I fear this is not in cards. Don't know for sure, though.
This really reminds me of a quote I read in a book on writing. It said that popular or genre fiction shows a character arc, plot development, etc., and literature simply shows the existence and reflections of the character.
It has also been interesting to put myself for the first time in the shoes (or armchair) of my students - reading and commenting on a set passage and no further, making predictions, etc. But it felt weird to put the book down at page 411 and not read through to the grand finale. Later.

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