The cry of the sloth

Reading: Lola, Elizabeth Smither and Hells Angels.

Read: The Cry of the Sloth, Sam Savage

Next: Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

After lately wading through some rather soporific classics, I rather enjoyed the offbeat, cynical humour of Sam Savage’s unlikely hero Andrew Whittaker.

Whittaker is a small-town author who publishes a failing literary magazine and spends his days writing rejection notes and acerbic letters. Most of the book is told via the letters, which is a style I usually find obtrusive and irritating, but in this instance was a delightul exploration of the character. His wife has left him, his debts mount, and no one takes his writing, or his magazine – or him – seriously. He bumbles along, wilfully ignorant of the side-long looks and open laughter at his expense.

I enjoyed the image of his descent into madness as he attempts to package the detritus of his life into numerous boxes for a house move. He is desperately lonely, his letters ignored or met with disdain, and has hardly enough money to feed himself. He takes to hiding in the mountains of boxes, opening the door to passersby stark naked, and putting on shows in the window for the nosy woman next door.

Despite the lighthearted approach, there’s a very sad undertone to this book and I sympathised with Andrew’s bitterness, his distaste for the sorry state of modern writing, and his lonliness. Writing is often a rejection-filled, solitary craft.

I think, overall it is a caughtionary tale. Don’t be arrogant about your talent (or presume you have it if you don’t) – but more than that: Don’t let the bastards get you down. The most endearing thing about Andrew Whittaker was his ability to turn a blind eye to the disapproving stares and sale on regardless, nose in air. He is absolutely convinced of his own riteousness, even when eating tuna from the can for dinner and replying to eviction notices.

The only thing I didn’t like was the ending. It lacked the climax I desired. Right on the button up until the last page, and then… nothing. I won’t reveal it, in case you do want to read it for yourselves, and perhaps when you do you’ll disagree with me.

Then I’ll be able to write you a very stern letter.

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