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Should the Library Be Promoting This Book? (Woof!)

October 21, 2008 by Reader's Connection

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

David Wroblewski’s novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is already a bestseller, and an Oprah book to boot; so although we’re glad to make it available to you, we needn’t knock ourselves out trying to push it.

What’s my excuse for this blog posting? The blame falls entirely on Sue Kennedy, Manager of the Irvington Branch. A year ago June, she created a wonderful booklist about dogs. The nonfiction picks were all by Sue, and they included Dog Years, a memoir by poet Mark Doty.

That book tells the stories of Doty’s two dogs, Arden and Beau. It’s funny and moving and uncompromising in its regard for the bonds between humans and canines.

Dog Years

But the plain truth is that no one should have to defend what he loves. If I decide to become one of those dotty old people who live alone with six beagles, who on earth is harmed by the extremity of my affections? There is little enough devotion in the world that we should be glad for it in whatever form it appears, and never mock it, or underestimate its depths.
Love, I think, is a gateway to the world, not an escape from it.

The book turned me into a Doty fan. So when I saw his rave on Edgar‘s dust jacket–

This remarkable hybrid seems like an impossibility: an American Hamlet, both ghost story and melodrama, a coming of age tale, a hymn to the land–and central to it all, some of the best writing about the inner lives of dogs anywhere . . .

–I was hooked. Or to put it in canine terms, I was ready for the hunt, running and panting. And like a good, sociable dog I want company.

Edgar is indeed a Hamlet variation. Instead of a Danish prince who talks and talks, you have a kid in Wisconsin who was born mute. And the kid’s family raises dogs, so that’s another difference. But just as in Hamlet, there are gripping family involvements, and there’s a death and the suspicion of murder. If you’ve ever loved a dog–or actually if you’ve ever seen a dog–and are one of the fourteen people in Marion County who haven’t requested this book, join the pack.

But if you’ve read Edgar, or if you’re waiting for your copy to come to your branch, have another look at Sue Kennedy’s list.

And I’ll add one more title with dog-consciousness content: The Green Knight, by Iris Murdoch. There are family problems and at least one sudden death in this one, too; and on the first page we’re introduced to Anax, “a distinguished and unusual collie with blue eyes,” whose point of view the reader is sometimes allowed to share.