Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pete Dexter's Missing Pages

I'm doing it again - getting excited enough about a book to write about it even before I finish it. This time it's Spooner, by Pete Dexter, a book that came from nowhere to catch me completely by surprise.

I was not unaware of Pete Dexter's work before I started Spooner, having read God's Pocket, Deadwood and Paris Trout, Mr. Dexter's first three novels. But none of those prepared me for the wit and humor on display in this new one. The writing in Spooner reminds me a lot of what John Irving produced at his peak, the kind of writing I've really missed. Warren Spooner is a special character, one not easily forgotten even though he is surrounded by equally memorable (and rather strange) people, including his mother and the stepfather who helped raise him. This is the story of a very troubled young man and his stepfather's refusal to give up on him - no matter what.

I knew this one was going to be fun when I spotted Pete Dexter's "note to early readers." Who could resist reading a book with a note that says, in part:
As far as I know, sometime in November of last year, the book you have in your hands was three years late. There are many reasons it was three years late, probably the most conspicuous being that it was once 250 pages or so longer than the version you hold, and it takes maybe half a year to write an extra 250 pages, and at least twice that to subtract them back out. I realize this leaves another year and a half unaccounted for, and all I can say about that, readers, is get in line. Whole decades are missing from my life, and I am pretty sure I wouldn't have it any other way.
...god knows how many of my greatest admirers have died while I've been diddling around with this thing - and so you can understand, perhaps, that in the end somebody had to put his/her foot down and say enough, and in the end somebody did. Be assured it wasn't me. I could have kept this up for another five years.
[...] should keep in mind that you're reading somebody who is still missing 18 months of the last 36, and has no idea about 2006 at all.
The Advance Reading Copy of Spooner comes in at a whopping 466 pages, all of them worthy (at least through the 365 pages I've read to this point), but I wonder what those other 250 pages had to say about Spooner and Calmer. It's a shame that we'll never know.

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