I came across this book at a book festival. The poet sitting in the booth next to me had purchased a copy and I opened it up to take a gander. I was instantly drawn in by the voice, read the first two pages, and went over to get a copy.
The book is fairly unique in that it combines a simple narrative with extended contemplations on various subjects, everything from history to science to sexuality. Obviously, those who do not appreciate that kind of intellectualization might not appreciate those qualities, but I found them to be some of the most fascinating aspects of the book. The history of queer culture in San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest, for instance, was endlessly interesting.
The book has no chapters or breaks in textual continuum of any kind. I’ve seen this done before (McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses” comes to mind), and have always felt that it has a curious effect. Because things are not compartmentalized into chapters, the story feels rather rambling and, consquently, akin to reality. When it’s over, it felt like I’d actually lived a couple days of life and was left to figure out what it meant…or to impose my own meaning upon it.
The narrator mentions Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey” and an appreciation for the extended dialogue in the book. I can’t help but think that the author is speaking directly through the narrator in this aspect, because OSGT also has long chunks of dialogue. Dialogue, in fact, probably constitutes the greatest portion of the novel.
Ultimately, the book had a really strange effect. In terms of pure narrative, I felt that it meandered and drifted at times, yet whenever I set the book down, I found my throughts gravitating back towards it.
There are some passages of beautiful description, but it was the philisophical/historical musings that stuck with me the most.
Ultimately, I gave the book four stars based on my personal scale of literature, which is weighted entirely on the ultimate effect of the book. I don’t disconstruct works of art and weigh them according to their pieces and details…I make my assessment based on the book’s ability to provoke worthwhile thought and emotion.
OSGT definitely left me with a lot to think about, and many of the characters stick in my mind like real people. I wish things went better for them, and hope the narrator finds his peace.
In saying all of the above, I nearly forgot to mention that there are also some really funny sections in the book…it’s a dark kind of gallows humor that had me laughing out loud more than once.
OSGT isn’t a popcorn read full of plot driven action that leaves you overful but undernourished…it demands attention, but pays off that demand with plenty of food for thought. To me, that’s the surest sign of a book worth reading.