Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: another update

After I posted my last update on The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, I read further. A few pages into it, something huge happened. If you've read it, you know what I am referring to. If you haven't, I can't bear to spoil it for you. Instead of making me go hmmm, it made me go WHOA!

As I sat in my bed, teetering from this new development in the story, I was reminded of a book I read many years ago. I think it was by Faye Kellerman. Throughout the book, the question was whether a woman was a werewolf. The woman herself didn't think so, and neither did I. I was eagerly waiting for the end of the book to reveal how all the evidence that pointed to the woman being a werewolf can be explained. But I was totally mistaken. She was a werewolf.

Somehow I had taken the book to be contemporary and reality-based, i.e. no ghosts or werewolves or space pirates or monkeys that talk. When at the end, I discovered that was not the case,
I felt let down.

I am not saying that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a deceptive book, and I had known, before I picked up the book, that it was a retelling of Hamlet, but after 200+ pages that describe the world as we know it in such vivid details, a world in which a dog bite hurts, storm winds rattle windows and break barn roofs, and Mr. Coffee makes coffee, after 200+ pages of no clue or suggestion that the huge thing is even possible, I find its insertion into the story jolting, to say the least.

(I'll take a breath now after that long sentence.)

Shouldn't the premise of a book be clear from the beginning? Shouldn't unusual possibilities be at least hinted at? Or is the whole first half of the book a set up, to lull readers so that the surprise is more intense? Am I going to stop reading just because I feel as if new rules have just been introduced to a game after it's gone on? Not a chance. I'm too invested in the story, in Edgar and his dogs, and I really do love the way the author uses language.

Will keep you posted.

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