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Oct 12, 2005


Dan Wickett

I'll join the fray of those who struggled to get into Gann's novel, and while I ended up enjoying it - and re-reading it myself after the ending - found myself once again, hitting stretches wondering if a large percentage of readers may never find their way to that ending. I think that while I enjoyed it, ONIR is a novel that I'd really have to think about suggesting it to another reader. I'd have to really believe they were the type of reader willing to put in a little work to fully enjoy a book.


I did cotton to it better, to use a southernism, the second time through. It's a richer experience, I think, with the lens of the ending to view things through. Romeo's section is all the more tragic for what happens later, for instance. And it's fascinating to keep a closer eye on L. as well.

I think you're right about the opening -- I, again, skipped ahead a few pages in the reread. I'm not convinced it's necessarily overwritten, more that it's just impossible to leap into a narrative in that particular style and have it feel completely natural. So it's a bit like swimming against the current at first. Interestingly though, as the book goes on, I actually do think the writing becomes somewhat less ornate. The final couple of sections I'm thinking of (Sutherland's obviously, but also the party and the final reveal).

The misgivings I have are mostly related to my own taste and the kind of stories I read when I have my pick. I'm grateful to Matt and the LBC for having read this, because I wouldn't have, unless there was a secret door at the back of the Don Quixote or I'd heard it was less dark. Dark because of the poverty angle, mostly. Being poor ain't easy. I like that the book explores this part of society and the politics that go along with it, but it's not my home country as a reader, if I'm being honest.


A quick addendum on the last paragraph -- it's not that I don't like fiction that's dark, it's that I usually stay away from books that look like they will bring me nothing but pain and misery. I think from the outside, I'd have thought that about this book and, to a certain extend, have been right. But it also gives the book weight it wouldn't have otherwise.


I thought Matt's reading of the later sections was right-on, how they shift in tone. On the first pages: I agree in part - with a style this distinctive there's an immersion the reader goes through (reading Ulysses was that way for me - it took a few running starts to get in). I think it was the vascular/heart metaphor that felt forced to me & slightly stiff, whereas the other writing, even when it was ornate, had this delirious flow to it that was very alive.

But this dogging on the first pages feels like quibbling, and it's not the kind of book I want to quibble with: It was pretty amazing.

Dan, your comment got me thinking about that Ben Marcus essay in the Atlantic, and his thoughts about how readers need different kinds of fiction to exercise their brain (I'm badly paraphrasing).

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