Our dinner on Tuesday was noteworthy on another account: your host actually served a full meal and resisted (heroically, I might add) the temptation to serve only sandwiches. With grilled bratwurst and roasted root vegetables, I mimicked the only complete meal mentioned in Edgar Sawtelle. The Pabst, Mickey's, and Leinenkugel's were all a nod to the book's Wisconsin setting. Ignoring geography in favor of the book’s canine theme, Glenn walked in with Lagunitas "New Dogtown" Pale Ale. All of these malt beverages had to compete with some nice bottles of red and the postprandial smoothness of Roy's best brandy. Peter, I'm sorry, but the Australian vintage simply didn't live up to our expectations. Are you saving the good stuff for your other book club?
Finally, kudos to our well-read guest, Tom A, whose excellent blondies, when combined with my brownies, created a dessert that reflected the dark and light coloring of the Sawtelle breed (and the mysterious Forte). Tom also gets high marks for his outside research, including his willingness to be abused by us for visiting Oprah’s website (egad!) to learn more about the author.
The BookFirst, a confession. The prior post was a disingenuous poke at our absent member, Stan. As he continues to idle his winter away in Squaw Valley (ostensibly home-schooling his ski phenom daughter, Rachel), he spends too little time reading and too much time congratulating himself that his book, Blindness, remains our top-rated title. Well, our conspiracy to “rate” Sawtelle above Blindness worked like a charm: Stan’s email reply contained equal parts suspicion and resentment. All in all, quite predictable behavior from the curmudgeon in the mountains.
Alas, the consensus on Tuesday was that Edgar Sawtelle was one of the most over-hyped books of 2008. While I tried to defend this lengthy if insubstantial story, others piled on with a common set of criticisms. Dan and Peter and Terry felt the book was far too long, an opinion we might have dismissed (since none of them finished the book) had not virtually everyone agreed with their assessment. Doug, thru his unusually eloquent spokesman Glenn, felt that none of the characters was given the depth needed to explain his or her behavior and, ultimately, lift this story into the realm of genuine tragedy. And, on that subject, few of us felt distracted by the novel’s heavy handed parallels to Hamlet. (Probably because no one could remember the names of the characters from high school English class!) Finally, several were disappointed by the forced ending, with George complaining that the character kill-off was more akin to Stephen King (Wroblewski's mentor) than Wm. Shakespeare.
The only praise given this book was for the frequent elegance of its writing, including some wonderfully descriptive passages about the dogs, Edgar’s flight, and a few other high moments. Oh, and George noted that we all received a nice primer on the training of dogs, a subject near and dear to his heart. With a 6.4 rating, Edgar Sawtelle resides below the median, at least for the time being.
John proposed four worthy titles, from which we selected The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage. John assured us that history would not repeat itself and that neither the book (with its emphasis on dogs) nor the meal would make us regret his choice of fare on March 24. Just in case, I may pack my own sandwich.