08-25-2008 07:21 PM
Hi Jim, glad to hear that Edgar's story had some value for you -- that's great to hear. As for your question, there was no baiting intended. The conscious decision on my part was to leave certain aspects of the story open-ended, and subject to interpretation, only because I thought it made for a better novel that way. I love books that make you feel like that world was there long before you opened the cover, and persists after you turn the last page, so maybe what you are picking up on is just my sensibility as a writer.
David... Enjoyed Edgar, Trudy, the dogs, and Wisconsin. I just came out of the
hospital and read Edgar in its entirety. Is it possible you are baiting us for a
follow up? Like Edgar retrieved from the fire, Trudy capitalizing on the log
notes, a gathering of all the dogs at Henry's, Glen's trek on dealing with his
blindness, Edgar actually catching more fish in Wisconsin lakes?????
Thanks for the fine adventure you gave me. It has helped in my healing - it
kept me in bed when I needed that. Also, this pleasure of mind involvement
defintely kept DOWN the pain level. Best to you. Jim Munson Sacramento,
California but a Wisconsin resident for at least 15 years.
Learn more about The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.
08-25-2008 09:05 PM
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.
If there is one thing you would like us to take away from reading this book, what would it be? What would be the one thing you think would be the most important thing you hope readers get from this book. Thank you, Vivian
Hi Vivian, interesting question, I've been sitting here thinking about this. I guess I don't hope readers get anything in particular except for the pleasure of immersion in a story, which is the highest goal of a novel -- to occupy your thoughts as a kind of double-life as you read. I certainly don't think of this novel as having a message, or a lesson, partly because using a novel to deliver a lecture damages the story, and partly because i don't think of stories as being summarizable -- they are an experience to be had, and are irreducible. Most of the novels I love I find impossible to summarize in any meaningful way.
I'm not trying to be evasive here, I'm just at a loss for words. What I can tell you is that, when I first started writing Edgar's story, I was quite aware of the fact that stories that took seriously the relationship between people and dogs (or any animal, for that matter) had been for a long time relegated to children's lit, and I thought that was all wrong. (Things have changed a bit since I started writing TSOES, which was back in thre 1990's.) I've often said on the book tour that I think of this novel as "a boy and his dog story for grownups", because that's the only reduction I've considered even half-right.
But if I push myself a little, I suppose I'd say there is this take-away: that this story takes the relationship between people and animals seriously; and by making it the center of a dramatic story, with life and death consequences, there's a implicit claim that our connection with dogs is worthy of close, serious, adult attention. It is, after all, one of the oldest projects of humankind, living with dogs.
Sorry for the ramble -- we could talk for hours on this. On the www.edgarsawtelle.com website I list a few books that meant a lot to me, including Vicki Hearne's Adam's Task, Vilmos Csanyi's If Dogs Could Talk (terrible title, excellent book), and several others.
Please feel free to follow up if I somehow went into the weeds answering your question, as I suspect I have!
-DavidMessage Edited by David_Wroblewski on 08-25-2008 05:16 PM
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
08-25-2008 11:38 PM - edited 08-25-2008 11:39 PM
Hi Vivian, I'm going to respond to this post in the Part V thread, since the ending, and your dissatisfaction with it, seems to be the crux of the matter. See you there!
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 ...
Learn more about The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.
08-26-2008 11:55 AM
Hello again, David.
It seems my original post lauding your effort has been moved to another location. Too bad, but here it is again in case you missed it and more appropriately placed I think.
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 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.
However, now I'm wondering if you ever, in your wildest dreams, imagined partcipating in this forum would engage you so fully? I can't imagine where you find time to read and respond to all of this threads. My word. I guess you know you have touched a nerve, many nerves it seems.
Thank you againg.
09-16-2008 09:08 PM
10-09-2008 09:33 AM
Dear Mr. Wroblewski,
First of all, I'd like to say that I found "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" disturbing. That is not a bad thing as I find that great literature is often disturbing and any book that engenders such strong feelings is a good one. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
My question for you involves a possible chronological incongruity. I may be wrong and if I've missed something, please set me straight.
I have read and re-read the section in Part 1 "A Handful of Leaves" that describes the history of Trudy’s miscarriages and story of Edgar’s birth. Trudy has two miscarriages and then the book says she becomes pregnant for the third time in late 1957. That pregnancy ends with a stillbirth in April of 1958. But later it says that her fourth pregnancy ends with the birth of Edgar in May of 1958. Is this year a typo or do I have the chronology completely wrong?
Thank you for taking the time to discuss your work with us.
01-17-2010 07:39 PM
Forgive me if I am a little "late to the discussion" here, but it took me a while to finally open that 500+ page book! I just finished the book last night, and perhaps it would be wise to think on it a while before coming to a final conclusion. But to be honest, I'm not sure what to think after those final chapters and am extremely anxious about not understanding the meaning here.
Let me start off by saying it was the most beautifully written novels I have ever read. By nature, I'm fairly impatient, and had to force myself to wade through some of the descriptions, analogies, etc. at the beginning. Then after the first 150 pages or so, I knew I would be doing a disservice to myself had I skimmed over them. The book was so descriptive, I sometimes felt that I was actually there in the story watching Edgar, hovering a few feet above him in mid-air. Halfway through the book I declared, perhaps prematurely, this was "the best book I have ever read...I cannot think of a better one." I absolutely loved the message about the connection between dogs and humans, could not get enough of Edgar's journey through the woods with his three dogs, and thought it was pure genius making Edgar mute. One could even say the rest of the story, or the surfact of it anyway, was driven by Edgar's guilt over his actions.
I was so deeply moved by this story throughout my month-long read. There were times I felt I could not even continue (specifically regarding Almondine's death) because I was so emotionally invested in the story. It's because of this, I'm so confused about the ending and quite frankly feel a little upset.
In my opinion, the basics of the story was driven by several key factors: Edgar's guilt about not saving his father (and the subsequent death of Page), his journey to find the meaning behind the Sawtelle dogs, and his desire to prove that Claude killed his father. These were the three things I held onto as needing to be resolved, and or addressed in the end. These are the three things that I felt were driving him to run, then in the end to return home, i.e. the driving force of the story and why I continued to read and be so invested in the novel.
The first was never resolved, other than Edgar expressing that he was sorry about Page's death. I found this to be a little anti-climactic and even an empty gesture considering Glen, nor his mother knew he felt this way. The second element was discovered by Edgar during his time with Henry. Although he never said it out loud, I even felt that I understood the meaning here. I even liked that it was never spelled out for us. But by him coming home, I was kind of "amped up" for him to explain this revelation to his mother and again, felt let down by him never expressing this to her. Was he right? Was it different for everyone? Was it on par with what John Sawtelle was attempting to achieve? Are we supposed to know?
Of course that leaves us with the last element, which we all know was never resolved either. Claude simply got away with all of it. Sure he lost his life, but is that enough? Trudy would never know it was Claude who killed both her husband and son. But proving this fact was Edgar's mission. It was one of the reasons I was so engaged as the reader. I wanted redemption, judgment, satisfaction. Instead, it all burned with the barn, and I can't help but be a little angry with the ending.
Most of all, I felt sadness at the end of this story. I loved how the story spanned several generations. I felt that we were reading just a small piece of a very large puzzle. Getting a glimpse at a longer, more expansive evolutionary chronicle. One that would have consequences for generations to come and one that was certainly shaped by those previous. But by ending it this way, hasn't the story ended? Perhaps I'm missing something. Perhaps the final chapter about Essay and the others was a foreshadowing of sorts into the future, but I'm not sure what that is. Had the Sawtelle dogs finally achieved what John sought? Edgar repeatedly mentioned "choice" when referring to the dogs, especially within his litter. By Essay making her final choice (after understanding what Edgar said about getting "away"), is this indicating that it is okay for the story to end here because what John strived for had been accomplished? No need for records, letters, kennels, Trudy/Edgar's care, because they didn't need it anymore? The next generation was here and therefore the story was over - or simply just beginning?
I'm really trying to understand the ending, and I must be missing something. Or maybe I'm close to understanding but cannot quite finish the thought in my head. Any advice?? I don't want it spelled out for me, but would just love a hint as to what you were thinking when you wrote those final chapters and what, in particular, was the meaning in the last one.