Friday, May 31, 2019

GLASS, a récit written by a divagator...the more words you need to look up, the more you should read it


Coffee House Press
$15.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 5* of five

The Publisher Says: Asked by a publisher to write a preface to her late husband’s novel, Edna defiantly sets out to write a separate book “not just about Clarence but also about my life, as one could not pretend to understand Clarence without that.” Simultaneously her neighbor asks her to care for an apartment full of plants and animals. The demands of the living things – a rat, fish, ferns – compete for Edna's attention with long-repressed memories. Day by day pages of seemingly random thoughts fall from her typewriter. Gradually taking shape within the mosaic of memory is the story of a remarkable marriage and of a mind pushed to its limits.

Is Edna’s memoir a homage to her late husband or an act of belated revenge? Was she the cultured and hypersensitive victim of a crass and brutally ambitious husband, or was he the caretaker of a neurotic and delusional wife? The reader must decide.

The unforgettable characters in Savage's two hit novels Firmin and The Cry of the Sloth garnered critical acclaim, selling a million copies worldwide. In Edna, once again Sam Savage has created a character marked by contradiction--simultaneously appealing and exasperating, comical and tragic.

My Review: Page 18:
In fact, after reflecting on it some more, it is not clear to me how a thought could ever be summoned, as I seem to have suggested then. After all, I would scarcely be in a position to summon a thought, pluck it from the enormous heap of all possible thoughts, were I not already thinking it, in some sense of thinking, in some sense of already, and of course it is less a heap than a tangle, an enormous tangle of possible thoughts, like a jungle. Summoning a thought would be like summoning a stranger from a crowd in order to find out his name. Well, I suppose you could do that with gestures or by shouting or by going over to him and plucking his sleeve, as you might do if one day you were to see someone in a railroad station whose name you would like to know, perhaps because he looks like the kind of person you would want to be friends with. To make the analogy work you have to imagine that yo are not able to go over next to that person, perhaps because you are crippled or horribly tired or under arrest and are handcuffed to a policeman. You see this person you want to know, perhaps someone famous who would be able to help you out of your difficulty, but you are not allowed by some mysterious force which we won't go into now to shout or wave or even move your eyes in a significant manner. The only way you are permitted to get his attention is by calling his name, and that is just the thing you don't know and were hoping to find out. Of course we have to assume also that the people you are with, the policeman or doctor or whatever, don't know his name either, or if they do they are refusing to tell you, because they think it would be harmful for you to contact that person or perhaps harmful to them, to their position in society, especially if you are being wrongfully detained, or perhaps they just do it out of spite. I feel that I am not making myself clear.
If reading that passage was less than pleasant for you, do not read this book. 220 pages later, the character of Edna Morton is still going on in this manner. Edna, widow of famous writer of sporting life Clarence Morton, has been asked to write a preface to her late husband's book. She declines, and decides instead to write the book we're reading.

Edna is the older-lady version of Ellen DeGeneres's comedic character, the stammering disorganized ditz. Edna is a life-long divagator. That drove her husband crazy, and if you're like Clarence of the brutal and direct prose, don't even start. You'll hate it from first to last.

For me, it was not hate but pure happiness that washed over me, leaving a little giggle and a wry smile and a sad little sigh at every changing swirl and tide. Her narrative voice is the creation of Sam Savage, whose death in January 2019 alerted me to his existence. Glass is a late work, published after Savage became a worldwide bestseller with the 2007 publication of Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife in 2007. I hadn't heard of that book before he died, so the US must've been an exception to the bestsellerness of it. As is so often the case...look at how much the French adore Jerry Lewis, known in his native land as the telethon guy most of his career.

Anyway. Glass. It's a lovely and funny and poignant and tragic tale of Edna's life before, during, and after Clarence with his sporty-dorty ways and his romper-stomper books. I suspect it's Mary (the last wife) and Ernest Hemingway's life, but I can't prove it. I can say that, wherever the inspiration struck Author Savage from, I'm glad he sat at his typewriter (I'm morally certain it was a typewriter, though again I can't prove it, because of a passage about typewriter ribbons) and left it for me to find. You'll know from the above page from the book whether it's for you or not.

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