The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by Larry Wroblewski

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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle takes place in the northern Wisconsin countryside in the middle of the 20th Century.  Set against this idyllic backdrop, with an iconic red barn as its centerpiece, Larry Wroblewski breathes life into a quintessential coming-of-age story – the story about a boy and his dogs – that, on the surface, seems to capture the pastoral American dream.  Wroblewski, however, subtly transcends these recognizable conventions with a story that is, at once, surprisingly modern and tragically universal.

Using Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an armature for its plot, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is an archetypal story of greed, sorrow, legacy, and madness.  And despite the fact that we recognize the plot’s major landmarks and know the story’s ultimate destination, we cannot help but marvel at the intricacy and depth of Wroblewski’s storytelling.  For him, the plot is merely a jumping-off point to explore the richness of life from numerous points of view (even a dog’s).

Edgar Sawtelle is a fourteen-year-old boy, who was born mute, perfectly healthy but unable to utter a single voiced word, who speaks to his mother and father in a half-invented sign language.  His gift is an uncanny ability to communicate with the Sawtelle dogs, a fictional family breed, started by Edgar’s grandfather, who’s vision was to create the “next dog,” the perfect ideal of man’s best friend Read the rest of this entry »


Literary Heat: Larry Wroblewski

I’ve just finished reading, “Netherland,” by Joseph O’Neill and a review should be forthcoming. I’m still digesting it, so to speak. I thought it was very well written, but there were parts that I didn’t enjoy and I can’t quite articulate why. This is funny because “Netherland” has been described as “Gatsby-esque” and I’ve always felt the same way about “The Great Gatsby.”

Next up in the queue is “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” the debut novel by David Wroblewski. This has been the year of debut novels, hasn’t it? Junot Díaz (kind of a debut), Joshua Ferris, Charles Bock, and now David Wroblewski. Another interesting coincidence: Díaz, Bock, and Wroblewski all supposedly took 11 years to complete their first novel. So, if I start tomorrow, keep a eye out for my stunning debut in 2019 or so.

“The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” is about a family of dog breeders and a mute teenage boy who communicates with people (and dogs) through an intuitive form of sign and body language. And it’s heavily influenced by Hamlet! Thus far, the critical reception for the novel has been positive. is aggressively supporting the book and it received a glowing recommendation from Stephen King.

Here is a brief interview with David Wroblewski in the Vulture blog on New York Magazine’s website. Vulture is fast becoming one of my favorite “culture” blogs and a daily read.

The book should arrive in the next day or so. I’m considering resurrecting the Your Designated Reader series for this one.

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