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Crooked River Burning Paperback – October 12, 2001
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And a Big American Novel it is--perhaps self-consciously so. The hero, David Zielinsky, is the earnest young product of Cleveland's ethnic, blue-collar West Side; his dream girl, Anne O'Connor, hails from snooty Shaker Heights and is smarter, prettier, and richer than anyone she knows. It's no surprise when these two fall in love, but they spend many years tiptoeing around this inevitability. In the interim David marries, starts a family, and nurses political ambitions, while Anne forges her own career in local TV news. Winegardner, meanwhile, has other fish to fry. He devotes entire chapters to such local luminaries as Dorothy Fuldheim, the city's woman broadcasting pioneer; Carl Stokes, its groundbreaking black mayor; Alan Freed, the DJ who credited himself with naming rock & roll; and more sports heroes, seasons, and individual games than you can shake an American institution at.
These are fascinating stories. It does, to be sure, take some time to get used to the constant, hectoring intrusion of the second person: "You lived in the present, dreamed of the future, and, until you were an old man, thought little of the past. And in a country with a fascist's love of victory, few understood that you rode into history on a rocket called defeat." In the end, though, all stylistic quibbles pale next to the wisdom and generosity with which Winegardner has drawn his characters--including the city itself. Anne loves her hometown "the way one loves a loyal family pet during its arthritic, bad-smelling final years," but one senses that for the author, the sentiment goes much deeper than that. Its very failures are lovely to him, and its persistence more lovely yet. As Anne herself might paraphrase Beckett: It can't go on. It goes on. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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More About the Author
Winegardner has won grants, fellowships and residencies from the Ohio Arts Council, the Lilly Endowment, the Ragdale Foundation, the Sewanee Writers Conference and the Corporation of Yaddo. His books have been chosen as among the best of the year by the New York Times Book Review, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, the New York Public Library, and USA Today. His work has appeared in GQ, Playboy, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, DoubleTake, Family Circle, The Sporting News, Witness, Story Quarterly, American Short Fiction, Ladies Home Journal, Parents and The New York Times Magazine. Several of his stories have been chosen as Distinguished Stories of the Year in The Best American Short Stories.
Top Customer Reviews
This novel does what I look for in a book: tells a unique story, creating a time and place, with characters which live. To this extent The Albany Trilogy by Wm Kennedy comes closest to a reference on the literary map. The historical setting of the start of the second half of the 20th century, Cleveland (of all places, but it works!) gives a window to America, baseball, emerging women's and race issues, social classes, politics, life lived then in full color rather than black and white.
The real and true strength of the book though is in the mastery of language, playful and otherwise, astonishing, the explicit presence and voice of an author that is not intrusive to the story, but woven into the telling. Just as Lethem and Auster have their own unique voices and styles, so too does Winegardner.
There are other novel coming out right now. I personally am looking forward to new Delillo, and another from Norton titled Death of Vishnu, Peter Carey's newest. None of them can be stronger than this one though.
The novel tells the story of Anne O'Connor and David Zielinsky, a mismatched couple from divurgent backgrounds who drift in and out of each other's lives over a long span of years. She is wealthy, daughter of a high-ranking politian, and a polished debuttante bored with the snobby rich boys she is expected to date. David, on the other hand, is politically ambitious, awkward, and the son of a colorful hard-drinking union man whose mother took off years earlier to Hollywood where she went chasing a movie career. The scenes in which David and Anne meet and get together at a vacation island in the lake, where David is visiting with his Aunt and Uncle, are wonderful and memorable.
The story of David and Anne is compelling, but not what I really remember and enjoyed most about this novel. Instead, I remember details of the Sam Shephard murder case (David's uncle is an investigator hired by the defense team, and David works on the case for awhile). I also remember lengthy cameos by Alan Freed and his first rock n roll shows; the effort by the Cleveland Indians to integrate baseball (their African American player, Larry Doby, entered the league just after Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers' celebrated player who broke the color barrier);cameos by newscaster Dorothy Fuldheim and black mayor Carl Stokes, etc.Read more ›
Anyway, when Winegardner's sequel to THE GODFATHER comes out, he'll probably finally get his due Somewhere in the hereafter, I bet Mario Puzo is thrilled such a talent agreed to take on the "family" business!
This book is not just a book about Cleveland. It's a book about an era in American history. It's about life in the 50's; the birth of rock and roll; politics of the time; and love, not so different from what you and I experience today.
About the river: It's hard to believe that the river was so polluted back then when it's so clean now -- hard to imagine. We really have come a long way. Cleveland rocks!!!
I hope Mark's next novel will come out soon.
Come and see us in Cleveland!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A fine bit of 20th century history/fiction for Clevelanders.Published 12 months ago by Thomas Strekal
Coming from Cleveland I'm probably prejudice, but this is great fictionalized history of Cleveland, adding interesting characters and story to Cleveland's history from the 1950's... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Ken in Virginia
I have not completely read the book, so I can't comment too much on it. I bought it for my husband. Read morePublished on January 11, 2014 by KayJay
This book by Mark Winegardner told me more about Cleveland than I knew, and more than I really was interested in knowing. Read morePublished on August 22, 2011 by J. Robert Ewbank
I went from reading Freedom (Jonathon Franzen) straight to this book and was delighted! I found it off of an obsure readers list and have read two other books from that list that... Read morePublished on March 22, 2011 by Chrissy Collins
I trudged through this book while asking myself why I was reading it. It is fragmented with branches that seem to be taking you somewhere but don't. Read morePublished on February 10, 2008 by Dan B
I was not expecting the book to be so sports oriented. I guess I need to go back and look at the description. Read morePublished on March 28, 2007 by Tallahassee Shopper
I am thrilled to see that this novel is finally receiving its due, as it was just recognized by Stephen King as one of his Best Books of 2006 (Entertainment Weekly, Dec. issue). Read morePublished on December 24, 2006 by Stevie Janowski