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Tuesday, December 12, 2006


A novel by Bruce Wagner

In the inside of the dust jacket it says: "In his most profound and accomplished book to date, acclaimed author Bruce Wagner breaks from Hollywood culture with a novel of exceptional literary dimension and searing emotional depth."

That's sounds pretty good doesn't it? It sounds like something I would really like to read? I read all 507 pages of Memorial and I still wouldn't mind reading the book described above. This sure isn't it.

I was sold on the book by hearing an interview with Mr. Wagner on WBAI radio. (One can find the interview by Googling "Cat Radio Cafe". It's somewhere on that site, or at least it was a couple of weeks ago.) It's an interesting interview. Mr. Wagner is an interesting talker. I wish I could say the same for his writing.

Maybe it was over my head. Maybe I'm not deep enough to grasp the "exceptional literary dimension". Maybe I'm too shallow or cowardly to plunge into the "searing emotional depth". Or maybe the novel is just as disappointing and depressing as I think it is.

So what is it? What did I read and get from it? This is a story of a family divided and yet still connected although through most of the novel they don't know it and one of them never does. We are presented with four interlocking stories. Once upon a time many years ago Ray and Marjorie were married. They had two lovely children Joan and Chester. Ray blew some sort of business deal, felt bad about himself, and quite the family, took off one day unannounced. As we enter the story the two kids are about 40 and the parents are old. There has been no contact with the absent father all that time. So that's the setup and then we get to go with them all through the personal hell or torment of Job. This is a novel where all the bad things you hear about on the news happens to happen to these people and those around them. All this is highly unpleasant and, well, sometimes feels exceptionally sadistic. That might not be so bad if there was a point to it all and since I lack the ability to grasp the exceptional literary dimension of it all, I guess I missed whatever that point or literary pay-off might have been. What I got was a sad, mean, ugly, and cruel story told with a whole lot, way too much, up-to-the-minute mass media hippness. Mr. Wagner sure knows his TV shows and personalities, and his LA gurus. Well, I know about this crap too and I didn't need him to point them out to me. But I don't waste my time actually watching the TV shows he insists on writing about, I just know about them and that's enough. I think Wagner should spend more time reading other novels than watching TV. It might help his writing or dictating or however this mess was produced. I didn't need him to tell me how horrible and sad modern life has become. I didn't need him to rub my nose in it. Everything he says about this country, the economies system, LA, is obvious to me. And he adds nothing on top of that. He just wasted my time with lists.

But then again I may well have missed the point. If you want to find out for yourself you can find my copy out on the stoop in front of my building where it will go after I finish writing this. My bookshelf is too small to house this big ugly thing. Besides I don't want to have to see it and be reminded of the time I wasted on it.
It might make a good gift idea for someone you hate and want to bum out.

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