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Rachel-K
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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

Please use this thread to discuss your comments, questions, and reactions to the last section of Edgar Sawtelle and the novel as a whole. All "spoilers" are fine in this thread!

 

Are you shocked at the final scenes of the novel? If you knew of the parallels between the novel and Shakespeare's "Hamlet," did being familiar with the play help prepare you for this ending?

 

Is this also a tragedy in the classic sense? Do these characters have aspects about them that made this ending impossible to avoid?

 

If this is also the novel of the Sawtelle dogs, what do you make of their final scene?

 

 

 

 

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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

You know, I had a real problem here. I saw after I started reading the book, people saying it was compared to Hamlet but I didn't think a lot about it. I mean, I thought, ok yeah, the uncle kills the father, his father's ghost comes back to tell him so. And then actually, I kinda left it at that, didn't think about it too much more because I hate when a new story is really following an old story, almost to the letter, just different settings and times. So I did NOT expect Edgar to be killed and I was not a happy camper about it. Ok, so now yes, I think back to Hamlet and think, ok, everyone dies. I can take it in that tragedy. Actually Hamlet is one of the few Shakespeare stories that I like. But with this story? Had I have known, this was going to be the ending, I don't think I would have spent the time to read this really long book! I read Hamlet already! This all seemed like a waste. I know, so were the lives in Hamlet but unless the author absolutely meant this to be a modern Hamlet, lets set that aside for the moment and look at the story. Here is a boy, who overcomes a huge handicap to live a pretty normal life and an extraordinary one with the dogs. There IS meaning here. I even want to believe he really saw his father. All that he goes through, to me, should have been the trials that in the end, bring him home to stop his uncle and make things right, to give all this some meaning.

Do the characters have aspects that make this ending impossible to avoid? NO, like I just said, to the contrary, there is a sadness in this book and in Edgar's story but there is a triumph in his spirit too for such a young man that it might have ended in Claude's death but no, Edgar's death did not have to be inevitable. And yes he gets away from the sheriff, but does the sheriff have to wind up blind?? What's that all about??

 

Why do they all have to die, so that the secret of the Sawtelle dogs die with them? Is that "the tragedy"? I think the ending was a tragedy. And did the mother die? She was laying there alive, if she didn't die, then that even blows the idea of the secret of the dogs dying with them all. I absolutely hated this ending. It seemed like a waste to what the story could have been to me. There was a uniqueness in this family and this boy and a great hope, just all wiped out. I except it in Hamlet I think because none of the characters there really have something beyond their present self and was not unfamiliar to how so many kings and princes died, from the days of the bible, killing each other for power. Look at the Roman Emperors. This just wrecked this story to me because there was more to them.

 

And the ending with the Sawtelle dogs? Again, what was that all about?? I really thought Essay (was that the one) was rounding up the dogs maybe out by the graves to keep them safe until Edgar could come find them, or someone anyway. So she takes them into the woods and looks east to what, the farm? a town? I am not sure on that either, and west, towards Forte and "makes her decision" and starts to walk. Where??? Is Trudy still alive? Are they just going to roam off somewhere? Is she taken them to be with Forte and all wind up wild dogs (with something special), which is that a way of bringing the dogs' story back around to the beginning?

 

Shocked at the final scenes? Utterly disappointed. There were some great scenes in this book and a great story, (between some really rambling descriptions of everything from scenery to 2-3 pages on how long it takes to start a tractor), but if you skimmed the right stuff and got to the stories in here, they were good. Until this. Yeah, its a tragedy alright. IMO.

Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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mrb2008
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

I have to agree with Vivian.  I was UTTERLY disappointed with the end - to the point that I actually threw the book across the room and exclaimed, "There's two weeks of my life I'll never get back!"

 

In truth, I enjoyed the book thoroughly.  I couldn't have said it was a "page-turner", but it was truly a pleasant, sometimes thought-provoking read.  Until the end.  And then I just didn't get it.  What was the point? What is the message in the tragedy?

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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Welcome from the Author

Mr. Wroblewski,

 

I finished reading "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle".  After reading some of the posts on this website  and especially those posts comparing Edgar to Hamlet, why did Edgar have to die, the confusion concerning the last chapter I had a couple of comments to make.

 

First, the book was wonderful.  I haven't read anything in 20 years that has moved me so much.  I, quite frankly, didn't "compare" it to anything.  I think all books stand on their own and this one certainly did.  If there is a comparison to Hamlet, so be it. Who doesn't like Shakespeare's plays told again and again in some form of fashion.

 

I wasn't surprised when Edgar died.  I was more surprised when Almondine died.  And how fitting that Almondine came and got her "boy" when he died.  I think the dogs knew, after Edgar died, that Trudy would never recover from the loss of her son so soon after the loss of her husband. 

 

That brings me to the last chapter.  After already crying, quite a bit, from the previous two chapters I was blown away when you ended it with Essay taking the dogs and leaving.  I prefer to think that Essay was leading the other dogs to Henry (who was now far from ordinary) and Tinder and Baboo. Regardless, it was a beautiful chapter and the only proper ending to the book (even though some would argue with me).

 

Contrary to Stephen King, I cannot read this book again any time soon if ever.  It left me so emotionally drained I could not get it out of my mind for several days.  My sister has the book now and a list of some of her friends who want it after her.  You see, she rescues dogs, as do her friends.  She communicates with them in a way I have never seen.  I think she will like your book.

 

Thank you for writing such a wonderful book!

 

Susan 

"I cannot live without books"
Thomas Jefferson
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kiakar
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Welcome from the Author

The ending didn't make me feel so great either. I didnt understand it at all. Why Edgar died? And what did happen to the dogs? Was that the end for the sawtelle dogs and the sawtelle family? What purpose did this story serve as a lesson or something to be remembered .?  I loved the story alot but, not the ending.
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

The parallels to Hamlet definately prepared me for the ending.  Even though, as I got closer to it, I kept hoping, maybe he would switch it up on us, but knew deep down that wasn't going to happen. 

 

I actually liked the ending, though maybe that wasn't my initial reaction.  Came here to see what other people thought and it definately has gotten me thinking.  I didn't mind that Edgar died firstly because of the whole Hamlet thing knew it was going to happen, and secondly because of how we get to accompany him and realize that his death is peaceful and Almondine and his father are there with him.  I mean, it is almost like the ideal way to go, except for the whole being murdered by your uncle part.

 

I think the Sawtelle dogs's final scene was fitting.  They got to choose--civilization or a life in the wild with Forte.  And because it isn't spelled out for us, well subsequently, we get to choose as well.  I do like the suggestion by someone else (sorry forgot who it was) that they went to Henry, Tinder and Baboo.  That would be nice to picture as well.  My interpretation was that Essay, speaking for the pack, chose Forte.  They had evolved and now it was all coming full circle, like a return to "Dog Eden" and also some kind of proof that John Sawtelle's ideas were right (thus closing the book where we started only a bit more evolved).

 

The one issue I'm still grappling with is Claude's motivation for doing what he did.  In "Hamlet" it is clear what Claudius is after, but I never got a full sense of what Claude wanted.  His brother's life?  The domestic bliss that he was actually incapable of?  I don't really have a satisfactory answer for that yet.


rkubie wrote:

Please use this thread to discuss your comments, questions, and reactions to the last section of Edgar Sawtelle and the novel as a whole. All "spoilers" are fine in this thread!

 

Are you shocked at the final scenes of the novel? If you knew of the parallels between the novel and Shakespeare's "Hamlet," did being familiar with the play help prepare you for this ending?

 

Is this also a tragedy in the classic sense? Do these characters have aspects about them that made this ending impossible to avoid?

 

If this is also the novel of the Sawtelle dogs, what do you make of their final scene?

 

 

 

 


 

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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

Thinking about it, I'm kind of glad that the responses to the ending are so heated. I wonder how (and whether) we can move the discussion toward the idea--or at least the question--of what there is to appreciate about tragedy? We have vivid characters, an urgent plot, a huge landscape, a hero who is desperately trying to work things out for the best, and who falls into a brutal ending.

 

I think I read the story in relation to Schultz, too--a man sets out to do something impossible and struggles with it with all of his might, and then has to abandon the task. Although he doesn't succeed, what he does is actually extraordinary. I found Gar, Trudy, Edgar, and their dogs, to be kind of like that!

 

Are we so accustomed to novels ending happily for the heroes--so much so that we might even feel that the "meaning" of the novel is wiped out if this expectation isn't met?

 

Do you feel at all that the novel can't offer personal inspiration to us if the good guys don't unequivocally tromp the villains? Do we interpret a message somewhere in it to be "Why work so hard? Why not follow the Claudes and not the Edgars if this is what you get?"

 

I desperately wanted Edgar to live, too.  But I also found that this ending was part of the novel's lonely, difficult beauty! I also wanted Edgar and Trudy to be able to keep the farm running by themselves! But I appreciated that it simply wasn't possible, and that the novel had to go in that direction.

 

Even the pang of how *close* Edgar was to discovering the poison, even that played a part for me in the awful beauty of the story!

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Claude and Edgar

Is the novel a "contest" between Claude and Edgar--between the ways each of them see and deal with the world? Does one of them "lose" more than the other?

By the way, D-A, I laughed out loud at my screen when I read "except for the whole being murdered by your uncle part!" I did get some comfort knowing Edgar died finding loved ones and that Claude died in confusion, but, I definitely agree that getting murdered by your uncle knocks some of the "ideal death" points off!

Claude's motivations is an interesting question! This is a man who shows up after prison (perhaps). Did he use the poison before? What is his charm, exactly? I had a strong sense that this character has a love affair with ruining things--did anyone else feel this way?
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

[ Edited ]

I am not one who needs all my stories to have happy endings. I think I would gag of boredom if they all did. One of the best books I have ever read was The Road. You know going in, its not going to end well, its post apocalyptic after all. So the beauty of it was the journey of love throughout. That is the only book that I actually sobbed, not cried but sobbed at the end and just couldn't let go off. But the beauty of it is the enduring love, in that there is beauty and hope even with the tragedy everywhere. I have read a lot of WWII concentration camp stories, those are tragedies of the spirit, of all of us but they are good to read and offer something for us to take with us to better us.

 

I do not see this as a great new American tragedy. Yes, in Hamlet, everyone dies too but there was tragedy in the time period, the setting and it is more like reading history, that this is how it happened at times but even so, I keep thinking back to it and thinking, there was really no one held out to you as someone you could fall in love with as a character (extremely interesting ones yes, come to love, no) and there was no real tantalizing ideas of what will come, what could come from the tragedy, so we are not surprised or really even saddened by the end. You can talk on "the Jungle Book" aspect all you want but this was a wordy, overly so on the backdrop information of the story, bad imitation of Hamlet. Why? All the elements are there, but then we are given moments of beauty and a believe that altho not everything works out the way you hope, i.e.. you can not speak, your father is murdered, you are alone, that still things can become better than the whole. Its a teaser of a book with an ending that as they say has "no socially redeeming value". Everyone just dies!~ altho some of us are still waiting on the Trudy thing, is she or isn't she dead. I felt lead on a long long journey that I stayed with for the moments of real story and the idea that something meaningful will come out of the end. This was more like...life sucks and then you die! That's just a waste. If there are lessons to learn along the way, they are minimalized by everything falling away in the end. Dog lovers, love this book but they talk about that aspect and how sad the book was but the relationship between man and dog was so beautiful. People who live in the area love this book for its long descriptive parts about where they live. I read so many reviews after reading the book and hardly any of either of these two groups talked about "deeper ideas" than those as to why they liked it, or all the "foreshadowing" that takes place that they found and understood. They just liked the dogs and the poetic descriptions of the countryside. I think that's because who wants to think that here are some amazing things happening, but then you die, cause we need to keep it in the "classical" style, while calling it something else. The longer I think on it, the more disappointing it is.

 

I will say this, someone has mentioned about making it a movie. I mentioned to a friend the end of last month who had also read it, that it is so full of descriptions that were actually bogging me down (and she said yes she had to start skimming to get to the stories too), that this is the first book I have read that I thought I would actually like as a movie better! (maybe) because there is so much there about the dogs and things that i try to imagine but can't really and would rather see it played out and what takes so long to read about the countryside and things, would already be a screenscript for a movie and then they would not overpower the story but be the backdrop against which you watch the movie. With so much of that taken out verbally, yet left in visually, then the rest of the story would move at a better pace and I could even put it down to one of those interesting stories of a certain time with just a really dark ending. Its just sad with some of these characters, especially Edgar, Henry and the dogs, that it all had to end so meaninglessly. To say, well it has come full circle or its about the dogs and they live on but in this way, just really leaves you feeling flat about the humans and their stories. 

 

This was almost like a really good, Hallmark Hall of Fame meets Halloween movie, Disney Family story...old yeller mets Jason. lol, I just thought, Hamlet, tragic as it was but with the ghosts, poison, mother uncle thing, everyone dies plot, meets the madness of Titus! And there was so much to really like about this book too but lets eat them all up in a gruesome way in the end and let the dogs do whatever they do. 

 


rkubie wrote:

Thinking about it, I'm kind of glad that the responses to the ending are so heated. I wonder how (and whether) we can move the discussion toward the idea--or at least the question--of what there is to appreciate about tragedy? We have vivid characters, an urgent plot, a huge landscape, a hero who is desperately trying to work things out for the best, and who falls into a brutal ending.

 


 

 

Message Edited by vivico1 on 08-13-2008 12:52 AM
Vivian
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

[ Edited ]

Hey b-a,

I was rereading some posts and I read yours again too. This is not giving you a hard time ok, but you have made me giggle twice and I loved it! You wrote the most enjoyable line I have seen on any of these posts. It is when you said....."I mean, it is almost like the ideal way to go, except for the whole being murdered by your uncle part." I love that line! I want to see it on a review or something lol. Thank you for putting a smile on my face about an ending that well, I have said enough about what I thought about the ending lol. But that is a great line! :smileywink: "...except for the whole being murdered by your uncle part". hehehe.:smileyvery-happy:

 

Oh, I submitted this and saw that I missed that you had the same response too Rachel lol. That's a great line huh? lolol

Message Edited by vivico1 on 08-13-2008 09:43 PM
Vivian
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

I would counter that there is nothing Hallmark at all about this novel. Although it certainly is moving, and we grow to care deeply for the main characters, it is full of hardship that isn't ever alleviated by true love or taking heart or following your dreams or bootstrapping or anything else. Even at the moment Edgar and Trudy decide to keep going with the farm, we are told that they have chosen the warmth of fooling themselves into believing they can. And I was taken in by the warmth of it, too! I was glad they'd chosen this. Soon after, Trudy gets sick. Edgar hands her the phone to call Claude!

 

I guess I'd love to talk a bit about what this great "unfairness" that the ending presents might offer us readers? If one of the things we want from a novel is hope, strength, promise, for our own struggling journey--what do we make of a novel that shapes a fictional world that is brutal and unfair?

 

In thinking of Hamlet, Edgar may be more likable--but we meet Edgar while his father is alive and his household is whole and happy. We don't meet Hamlet until he is brooding and furious and haunted. If we'd met Edgar when he finds Claude's car in the driveway overnight--might have seemed like a different kid!

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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

Yes, but saying Hallmark, is not a putdown. I know sometimes today people think that means a story that couldn't make it to the theatre, but it use to mean a wonderful rich story. Hallmark hall of fame movies were something. Why I say it is almost like both is because as you say, when we first meet them, they are a happy family and also because throughout the book is a very descriptive look at the countryside and the dogs they are raising that are so special. That's the family side, the Hallmark side, it is no putdown. It's just like its part that story added to a pure evil you are not going to beat. Even Hallmark stories could end happy or sad but they had a deeper meaning to leave with you about people, about yourself.

I don't particularly need all my stories to have some moral meaning, some are just good fun, or great scares or even informational and that's ok too.

 

I also agree that if we had met Edgar somewhere later on, maybe we would see him differently, as when we meet Hamlet, but really, I don't think so. Edgar is a pretty likeable character throughout and you want him to win. You want him to be the hero of the story. You cheer almost every move he makes, trying to make sense of his world and trying to make things right. The only time I felt something dark about him actually, was when he stared down Claude through the kitchen window, with that silent, slight grin. That was pretty creepy.

 

As for the middle part of your question. This is the thing, I see no hope or strength or promise after reading this book. I do see just a brutal and unfair world. There is nothing for me to walk away with. I am sure someone can find something or the author can tell me something but without this forum, just reading the book, its not there. And from what I am reading on these boards or hearing from some people, not all, who have finished the book, they have very similar feelings. I love this forum to hear what the author is after and share what I get from a book. But, if I need the author's explanation to understand the book, it's not an enjoyable read and I don't think I am a dumb person. It's just a really disappointing ending to some of us. If the hope and promise is not at all about humans, but the dogs, to be found in the dogs, we are not even sure what the dogs do. Do they go off and become wild, do they return to Trudy, if she is alive, which is unclear to many too it seems, or do they go find Henry? That would be great, if they at least went to find Henry. He, to me, is the last standing human emblem of hope or a future! I just don't know. It just muddled into dark sadness to me where no matter how hard this young man tries in the world, he can't win and then he is just going to die. Doesn't offer much for me as a human to draw strength or hope from... or just understanding.

 


rkubie wrote:

I would counter that there is nothing Hallmark at all about this novel. Although it certainly is moving, and we grow to care deeply for the main characters, it is full of hardship that isn't ever alleviated by true love or taking heart or following your dreams or bootstrapping or anything else. Even at the moment Edgar and Trudy decide to keep going with the farm, we are told that they have chosen the warmth of fooling themselves into believing they can. And I was taken in by the warmth of it, too! I was glad they'd chosen this. Soon after, Trudy gets sick. Edgar hands her the phone to call Claude!

 

I guess I'd love to talk a bit about what this great "unfairness" that the ending presents might offer us readers? If one of the things we want from a novel is hope, strength, promise, for our own struggling journey--what do we make of a novel that shapes a fictional world that is brutal and unfair?

 

In thinking of Hamlet, Edgar may be more likable--but we meet Edgar while his father is alive and his household is whole and happy. We don't meet Hamlet until he is brooding and furious and haunted. If we'd met Edgar when he finds Claude's car in the driveway overnight--might have seemed like a different kid!


 

 

Vivian
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

[ Edited ]

Hi Vivian, I've read your posts here and in the other threads, and I admit I'm flummoxed at how to untangle all the embedded questions, but we have to begin somewhere, so I'm just going to wade in, and forgive me if I flounder. Also, forgive me if I sound like I'm lecturing, which you also seem to have taken offense at. Like I said in my initial post, I'd rather just listen and learn, if I had my choice. I'm just trying to answer questions as clearly as possible.

 

Anyway, to begin, let me just say that I have had the same sort of reaction you've described, but to a different book. In my case, it was American Pastoral, by Phillip Roth. Widely respected, grandly praised, etc. The writing is exquisite. The dialogue crackles with electricity. All the craft is there, and it is magnificently done. I was drawn all the way through it. But I felt the ending was so hopeless! Really without hope at all, an image of the decline of civilization into anarchy and meaninglessness. Try as I might, I have never been able to see it differently. I came away offended, somehow. I felt it was unforgivable and I swore I'd never read Roth again (American Pastoral was the first of his novels I'd read.) And yet I can't believe Roth would go through all that work, years of writing, just to deliver meaninglessness. I still think I missed something, but damned if I can identify it, and I was so unhappy with the novel I was unwilling to read it again to figure it out. I say all that because I want you to know I've made all the arguments you're making here, and even if I disagree with you in the case of Edgar, it doesn't mean I'm not sympathetic.

 

Maybe this is a way to get started: in the "Questions for the Author" thread, you asked what I'd intended for readers to take away from TSOES. I've quoted your response to my response below. Two things are confusing to me.

 

First, are you presuming that I somehow tacked on some pointless tragic action to the ending in order to be sensational? That's not the way I think about it, or experience it, and you can be sure I wouldn't have written it if that was all I was doing. Good grief! Life is way too short. I see all the action of this novel as of a piece, foreshadowed from page 1, echoed strongly throughout, and signalled clearly right up to the final page. So we've got a major disconnect on that front.

 

Second, I just can't figure out what it is you are asking for in the post quoted below, if not a summary of the story, some nutshell. I certainly didn't start out with the goal of imparting wisdom, sending a message, anything of that nature. I don't think that's a failing. A story, in my view, should be an experience, irreducible to anything shorter. Can you give me an example of what you are looking for, using another book? How about Moby Dick? How about Amercan Pastoral! Or pick some other well-known book. What should readers take away from them?

 

There's always the possibility that this novel just flat failed for you, and it isn't a whole lot more complicated than that. But I'd like to understand why, because, as you pointed out, others have had the same reaction as you.


-David

 

 

From the Questions for the Author thread:

Vivian wrote: Well, I wasn't really asking, "how would you summarize this book", that would be a bit of a classroom question for me. I guess what I am asking, may even go back to when you first thought about the story, or first started writing it or maybe it came as you went and you weren't sure till the end. It is different for different writers, but the question is really, what would you want someone to take away with them from this book and that could be either something of meaning to the readers, something you really had to say and wanted to make sure they got that, or it could honestly be, well I hope they just come away from it having enjoyed a book with no particular message but interesting enough for them to tell others about. You said about the closest you have gotten before was to say that our connections with dogs is worthy of close serious attention. I do believe that after reading two books about it.....as an opening line to the answer of what then about this book would you like to have us take away from that idea?

To say, or summarize it as a boy and his dog book for adults, well, hmm I am searching for words to express what I am saying now but "a boy and his dog" books usually do have very meaningful messages for the younger readers. To say this is an adult version of that still leads to the question of why, in this book? Adding life and death situations, which in the book seem meaningless too, to make it more an "adult book about a boy and his dog", without meaning, without message, or even then without just a being a lighter entertainment book, is to me anyway, like adding bloody scenes to a PG-13 movie just to get that R rating and draw in adults, tho it doesn't lend anything to the story, its just there for that rating.

I am trying to figure out, I guess especially from the ending, because I was willing to take the journey, tho sometimes arduous to get there, with you because I was just sure this was leading up to a more understandable and meaningful ending, something I would know I have gained about that opening line of the explanation, of taking the connections seriously, what happened? I felt like a bomb was dropped in the end of the book, right on the farm, killing the people, ending the story,leaving unanswered questions about the dogs and if they even have or need that connection to us anymore. It felt like after 550 pages, something just had to end the story and so lets kill them all in a very melodramatic way, but saves the dogs, that will appease the dog lovers. I do ask and also say these things in all sincerity, not to put down the author, but to try to understand what he, you, wanted us to get from that. The answer that you really don't know either, is unsettling. If anyone were to ask me about any book I have or would recommend to them, Vivian, you don't have to tell me the story, let me read that, but what do you think I will take away from this, what did you? I can tell you exactly what about each one, the others become forgettable to me or meaningless. This would be true of every book from serious reads about the holocaust, to fun adventure books that are just a good fun ride of escapism to take!

I really felt the question was one that was right to what I was trying to figure out about this book and one the author would know and could help me with, as I can't find it. Well, thank you for your response anyway.

Message Edited by David_Wroblewski on 08-25-2008 10:43 PM


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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison


vivico1 wrote:

 

This was almost like a really good, Hallmark Hall of Fame meets Halloween movie, Disney Family story...old yeller mets Jason....<snip> And there was so much to really like about this book too but lets eat them all up in a gruesome way in the end and let the dogs do whatever they do.



 

Vivian, I was rereading this post, and trying to figure out: is this really your take on the total significance of the ending, or is this angry bombast? Just, "let the dogs do whatever they do"? Because if that's truly the way the story worked for you, no wonder you're ticked off. But at the same time, I'm not at all sure how I can make the story sensible for you, if that's the case.

 

-David 


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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

Hi Rachel, I wonder why you say Edgar's ending is "brutal"? Edgar's death is hardly brutal, to my thinking, unless all death is brutal by definition. He is reunited with Almondine, he meets his father, gets a chance to say what he wished he'd have said that night in the rain, corrects some of the wrongs he's done (apologizes, at least in spirit, to Glen). If we can't be immortal, then might we all hope, many years from now, to die as gently as Edgar does. 

 

I know I'm ignoring the larger scope of the entire story's ending here, I'm just talking about Edgar's death. Did I misunderstand you? 

 

-David 

 


rkubie wrote:

Thinking about it, I'm kind of glad that the responses to the ending are so heated. I wonder how (and whether) we can move the discussion toward the idea--or at least the question--of what there is to appreciate about tragedy? We have vivid characters, an urgent plot, a huge landscape, a hero who is desperately trying to work things out for the best, and who falls into a brutal ending....


 

 


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vivico1
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

Thank you for acknowledging my reaction and that you understand it. First, I do not feel you ended it the way you did to be sensational. I am saying, if that's the part that makes it an "adult boy and his dog book", then it was not needed. Also it had the feeling of, I am not sure where to go with this so its just time to end it and that one night ended it for about everyone and I don't understand it, or why. It is as if, barring giving Edgar's plight in life meaning, and for him, not just Essay, but for him in this life that he fought so hard for, and I will say beautifully and some parts just so enthralling, that to end it this way was to just fall back on an old over used formula in order, not to sensationalize, but to fall into the category of "a tragedy" in the classical sense. I do not agree with Maria's attack on you in the intro, ok? That was a bit much, but what she said about what this could have been and about tragedies, I do agree with.

I will try to give you an example of what I am trying to figure out from this book rather than a summarization, the...what do you take away from it, if you will, because I do not want to reduce it to something as you say, because I do believe a book should be an experience. And I for one, believe that even in the worsts experiences, we can take something away from it that we can extrapolate to our own lives, that by reaching inside the story, we can reach inside ourselves and draw out more. For example, ok, lets take a dark book. The book The Road by Cormac McCarthy, you know going into this book, it is not going to end happily because its an apocalypse! So here we start with a book, where we know this is looming ahead. But, for the bleakness and darkness of the father and son's journey, to just stay alive, the love between them, the love of the boy for others and concern is amazing! And what he could say with one or two words, could shake you. Every time that little boy would ask his father something, and his father would answer him, he knew if his father was telling the truth, or just trying to offer him hope. He didn't question him. He just looked down at the road while holding his fathers hand and said....Ok pappa, or just "ok". There was so much meaning in that it was incredible! and in the end, after all the struggles to just survive **** spoiler warning here for anyone who has not read the book****, when his father dies, and I did hope that he wouldn't, that they would both find safety, but even then, this little boy was infused with such love and such a carrying nature for other people that you just knew he would be the hope, the future, of those who found him. And at the end of that book, altho I have been teary eyed by other books, I sobbed for a day and the book shook me for a week. And if anyone was to ask me, what did you come away from that book with Vivian, its so dark, I would say.. a sense of enduring love between a man and his son and a feeling of profound hope even in the bleakest of times, that even then someone can endure and keep hope alive, for himself and for them all.

Now one other example of a different kind of book from that but about dogs too, the Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, a book about a talking dog that trust, me at first glance I did not think I would like it. I am not the biggest dog fan, I am a cat person lol, and I am not the biggest racing fan, and the idea of a story told from a dog's perspective?? I thought nahh, I don't think so. But I am always trying new books and I read it. This is a great book! It starts with the dog being older and is ready to die, once again, you know up front, this dog is going to die, so be prepared but you fall into listening to him and it really makes great sense! He is in the unique position of hearing everything that goes on in the family, but he can't tell anyone the things he knows, the wisdom he has learned, because after all, no, dogs cant talk. There are big family problems, there are problems for Enzo the dog, from things he had to experience on a puppy farm, to things that happen now. You hear this most entertaining story but as you go along, not only is it entertaining, funny, and at times very sad, you are gaining insights into the way maybe a dog sees the world (I thought about this the couple of times you had the story from Almodine's point of view) and you gain insights into how you handle things too, from how his owner, or should I say friend, handles the world. It is a very unique view of things and its a tight book. So much said in so few words, I really like this author because of that, because you get things to think about that you know in just a few words as you set it down. This is the first book of his I have read, or McCarthy's for that matter. There is also a dark persona in the book, which I will not speak about either so I won't spoil it for others who have not read it either, but its there and you wonder about it and is it a part of all of us too. But you know, even if it is, the other things that happen in this book makes you know, that you can do something about it. This is not to say bad things don't happen that you can't stop, because they do, and in the book too, but its about how do you handle them? And in the end, even when that dog too dies, there is hope, there is meaning and if someone asked me about it, I would say, this book is extremely entertaining, funny, sad, unique and you will walk away from it feeling very good, tho you may be crying for losses too but you will be thoughtfully questioning your journey through life too. To say these things about these books, do not reduce them to something simplistic, it is to say, here is why it's worth reading to me.

We talked some before about the book covers, and them giving away too much, remember? And how much the flap on this one did, like telling us about Edgar's father dying and "who done it" rather than letting us read and discover it as we went along. David, to me, that flap reduces your book. And I think also it tends, by the very nature of giving away so much information, to mislead us to where its going. And the Hamlet talk, with all this other, makes us tend to forget the tragedy of Hamlet's end, so if its meant to foreshadow the end for us, well the flap leads us another way. I think that is why you get such extremes in views about the ending.

So, if I were to say about your book, what you asked me about other books , to someone else, I guess this is what it would be. I have no idea what the book is about. I thought I knew, I don't. I found great parts in it and such a good story in there that gave me such a desire to finish, what I think is an overly wordy book, redundant in parts, because there was greatness building in this young mute man and his dogs, that I was sure the ending would be strong, and the boy too. But I don't understand where it went and why.

If I were going into detail with them, beyond that, I would tell them, it feels like a "life sucks and then you die" book because I don't get it. With everyone dead, tho I am one of the ones who believes Trudy is alive. But with all the humans gone or maimed and the dogs running off, with one good leader but I have no idea if its leading the others to somewhere like to Henry's or back to being wild, with the other dog thus doing away with the human - dog bond anyway, I just don't get it. I do agree Almondine was not meant to take this journey with Edgar and the puppies, this was Essay's time of emergence, but did she still have to die? Was that to do away with all the past? If Trudy is indeed alive, why could not Edgar have come home to at least see her in this life once, and if you had to kill off Edgar for whatever reason, why could not old Almondine have stayed with Trudy, both alive and part of that past but together, in that still, boy and his dog story, while Essay walked off to be the future? David, Edgar was a great character and killing him off rather than seeing this mute boy have a life again, on the farm, with the dogs, with his mother, bringing it around to an ending, with real meaning and that everyone could understand, to just kill them all, well, for me, just didn't make it the story it could have been. And i LOVED the storm part with Essay, I LOVED the part with Henry, I LOVED Edgar with the dogs, and I LOVED his father appearing in the rain itself. You grabbed me with these really great parts, while the rest was well, I skimmed at times. You had me! You made me believe and then you killed it all. I dunno. That's the best I can tell you of what I feel about it and what those who I know who have read it and finished it, who didn't like it pretty much felt too. Ok, I will end this novel here, but thank you for asking about what I was trying to say, or ask.

 


David_Wroblewski wrote:

Hi Vivian, I've read your posts here and in the other threads, and I admit I'm flummoxed at how to untangle all the embedded questions, but we have to begin somewhere, so I'm just going to wade in, and forgive me if I flounder. Also, forgive me if I sound like I'm lecturing, which you also seem to have taken offense at. Like I said in my initial post, I'd rather just listen and learn, if I had my choice. I'm just trying to answer questions as clearly as possible.

 

Anyway, to begin, let me just say that I have had the same sort of reaction you've described, but to a different book. In my case, it was American Pastoral, by Phillip Roth. Widely respected, grandly praised, etc. The writing is exquisite. The dialogue crackles with electricity. All the craft is there, and it is magnificently done. I was drawn all the way through it. But I felt the ending was so hopeless! Really without hope at all, an image of the decline of civilization into anarchy and meaninglessness. Try as I might, I have never been able to see it differently. I came away offended, somehow. I felt it was unforgivable and I swore I'd never read Roth again (American Pastoral was the first of his novels I'd read.) And yet I can't believe Roth would go through all that work, years of writing, just to deliver meaninglessness. I still think I missed something, but damned if I can identify it, and I was so unhappy with the novel I was unwilling to read it again to figure it out. I say all that because I want you to know I've made all the arguments you're making here, and even if I disagree with you in the case of Edgar, it doesn't mean I'm not sympathetic.

 

Maybe this is a way to get started: in the "Questions for the Author" thread, you asked what I'd intended for readers to take away from TSOES. I've quoted your response to my response below. Two things are confusing to me.

 

First, are you presuming that I somehow tacked on some pointless tragic action to the ending in order to be sensational? That's not the way I think about it, or experience it, and you can be sure I wouldn't have written it if that was all I was doing. Good grief! Life is way too short. I see all the action of this novel as of a piece, foreshadowed from page 1, echoed strongly throughout, and signalled clearly right up to the final page. So we've got a major disconnect on that front.

 

Second, I just can't figure out what it is you are asking for in the post quoted below, if not a summary of the story, some nutshell. I certainly didn't start out with the goal of imparting wisdom, sending a message, anything of that nature. I don't think that's a failing. A story, in my view, should be an experience, irreducible to anything shorter. Can you give me an example of what you are looking for, using another book? How about Moby Dick? How about Amercan Pastoral! Or pick some other well-known book. What should readers take away from them?

 

There's always the possibility that this novel just flat failed for you, and it isn't a whole lot more complicated than that. But I'd like to understand why, because, as you pointed out, others have had the same reaction as you.


-David

 

Message Edited by David_Wroblewski on 08-25-2008 10:43 PM

 

 

Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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vivico1
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Part V: Poison

Well there are the questions some of us have asked that might help.

1. Is Trudy alive or dead?

2. Where is Essay taking the dogs?

3. Why did you kill Edgar in the end?

4. What did you mean it to mean?

 

If by chance, the answers to these are, that's for us to figure out. I will not say this in an angry bombastic way, honest, but if that's the case, no need to reply, because your right, I didn't get it and won't. The best I can do is what I said in the long one on here, but we are not understanding some of these questions. And is Trudy alive or not, is just a pretty basic one, but its not clear in the story or it wouldn't be a question at all.

 


David_Wroblewski wrote:

vivico1 wrote:

 

This was almost like a really good, Hallmark Hall of Fame meets Halloween movie, Disney Family story...old yeller mets Jason....<snip> And there was so much to really like about this book too but lets eat them all up in a gruesome way in the end and let the dogs do whatever they do.



 

Vivian, I was rereading this post, and trying to figure out: is this really your take on the total significance of the ending, or is this angry bombast? Just, "let the dogs do whatever they do"? Because if that's truly the way the story worked for you, no wonder you're ticked off. But at the same time, I'm not at all sure how I can make the story sensible for you, if that's the case.

 

-David


 

 

Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Introduce Yourself

[ Edited ]
I knew from the reviews and overviews that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was a take on Hamlet.  However, I never thought you would end it the way you did.  Hamlet is killed off in Shakespeare's play because of his own tragic flaw of indecisiveness and cowardice.  Fortinbras arrives to bring hope to the State of Denmark.  Edgar is no such person.  Edgar shows bravery, independence and decisiveness in his actions.  He is on the verge of obtaining the proof to bring Claude to justice.  I cannot believe that you create an ending where Evil triumphs over good.  The dogs running off removes any chance of hope.  There is no Tragic Flaw in Edgar (I hope no one considers his muteness as such).  Edgar returns home to face his possible guilt in the death of the Vet and to find the evidence needed to turn in his uncle for the murder of his father.  I read 2/3's of the book in one night, and I eagerly shared my feelings of the glorious story of this wonderful boy and his endearing dogs with many friends and family members.  The writing is excellent; it kept me wanting to read and read and read until I got to the end.  I will never loan/give this book to anyone I care about.  I would not want the horror of this travesty haunting anyone as it has haunted me for days.  I literally cried myself to sleep for three nights.  I will never,  ever read another book by this author.  His sense of tragedy is actually a travesty to the classical elements of tragic drama.
Message Edited by rkubie on 08-26-2008 05:50 AM
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vivico1
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Introduce Yourself

[ Edited ]

MariaLaS wrote:
 I knew from the reviews and overviews that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was a take on Hamlet. However, I never thought you would end it the way you did. Hamlet is killed off in Shakespeare's play because of his own tragic flaw of indecisiveness and cowardice. Fortinbras arrives to bring hope to the State of Denmark. Edgar is no such person. Edgar shows bravery, independence and decisiveness in his actions. He is on the verge of obtaining the proof to bring Claude to justice. I cannot believe that you create an ending where Evil triumphs over good. The dogs running off removes any chance of hope. There is no Tragic Flaw in Edgar (I hope no one considers his muteness as such). Edgar returns home to face his possible guilt in the death of the Vet and to find the evidence needed to turn in his uncle for the murder of his father.  I read 2/3's of the book in one night, and I eagerly shared my feelings of the glorious story of this wonderful boy and his endearing dogs with many friends and family members. The writing is excellent; it kept me wanting to read and read and read until I got to the end. I will never loan/give this book to anyone I care about. I would not want the horror of this travesty haunting anyone as it has haunted me for days. I literally cried myself to sleep for three nights. I will never, ever read another book by this author. His sense of tragedy is actually a travesty to the classical elements of tragic drama.

 

 

 

Maria,

Other than some of the adjectives about David, or words of venom or desires for a small bit of violence lol, you have stated very well, why this book bothered me and why I can't even compare it to Hamlet. I felt the very same way, (other than the physical stuff to the author that is lol) that you did about this ending. It just did not seem worthy of the rest of the story.

Message Edited by rkubie on 08-26-2008 11:26 PM
Vivian
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Re: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: Introduce Yourself

Whew, they sure make you jump through hoops to access this site.

 

Anyway... it was worth it just to say...

 

 

BRILLIANT, absolutely brilliant!

 

I've just an hour ago, finished the book having read it in three days, a record for me, and inspite of the the Games being on the tube. I have been looking forward to reading this book, but kept putting it off. Its size seemed daunting, leaving it sit on my bedside table as a nagging reminder "when are you going to read me, summer's almost over". So instead I read all the other silly summer novels I had collected saving, what is now obvious, the best for last!

 

I love this book. Simply stated it is the best book I think I have ever read! I hated to read it so quickly, knowing I would feel lost when it was done and I didn't have it to look forward too. I inhaled it I tell you! I sat with all four of my dogs hugged up around me on the bed, or on the porch swing with a blanket wrapped around me until the the light was so dim I had to go inside. I cried, oh boy did I cry, and my best boy Elvis just groaned at my silliness, my Mojito snuggling even closer to comfort me. They knew, I swear they did.

 

I simply can't begin to entertain what to read next knowing I will have The Story of Edgar Sawtelle to compare it to. I know I will be disappointed with anything I pick up so perhaps I will just have to settle for one of the two books on Marketing :mansad: I've been ignoring in favor of more entertaining reads.

 

Thank you David Wroblewski for a great ride, al beit too short. I didn't compare this to any other book, I think it stands on its own merit. You are BRILLIANT!

 

BTW where in Colorado do you live? I lived on the Western Slope for 25 years, now living in the East Mountains outside Albuquerque. I miss Colorado very much.

 

Thank you again. You are blessed, and so are we to have Edgar Sawtelle and his amazing pups in our hearts and memories forever.