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October Light Paperback – October 27, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Sally and James are feuding over Sally's autonomy. She's moved into James' house because she's outlived her money and has nowhere to go. It's the mid seventies, and James has holed up in his tumbledown farmhouse to fight a rear guard action against trashy modernity and moral relativism. Sally's more progressive. She watches TV (until James blasts it to smithereens with his shotgun) and seriously believes that Democrats are people too. Sally won't be enslaved by James' rigidity and rages, and won't come down until he agrees to give her breathing room.
The book Sally reads in her room is called Smugglers of Lost Souls' Rock. This novel within a novel takes up about a quarter of October Light. It's a tale of marijuana smugglers off the coast of California; it's chock full of orgies, flying saucers and more barroom philosophizing about man's fate than any novel can bear. Fortunately some pages are missing, so we're spared some of the existential exegeses, but not enough. Gardner uses Sally's reaction to Smugglers of Lost Soul's Rock, to tackle what constitutes truth in a work of fiction; the faux novel also serves as a brilliant, hilarious send up of the seventies' version of truthiness.Read more ›
John Gardner has created two great characters in 72 year old James Page and his older sister Sally Abbot. James, born on the fourth of July, is fiercely independent. His life's work has been caring for "dumb animals: horses, dairy cows, bees, pigs, chickens, and, indirectly, men. " James is truly shocked by Sally's disrespect for his opinions on the state of things in general. "Though he was never a great talker--certainly not in comparison to her, she could lecture your arm off--he knew a signifcant fact or two, knew by thunder, a truth or two--a truth or two that was still worth getting out of bed for."
Sally Page, a widow, has moved in with her brother James, because once the well to do wife of a dentist, she is now destitute. Sally does not adapt well to James' idea of a good life (one without television, nuclear energy, opinionated females, or home improvements.) "She'd preached him a sermon off television about the Equal Rights Amendment. He'd been amazed by all she said--shocked and flabbergasted, though he knew from magazines that there were people who believed such foolishness." They shake each other up, "She'd seemed as astonished by it all as he was, so astonished to discover what he thought that he almost came to doubt it," and ultimately survive themselves and each other.Read more ›
Set in rural Vermont, the story centers on an elderly brother and sister who live in the same house. To be precise, it's James house and he's none-too-happy to have his opinionated, liberal sister living under his roof. Sally, the widow of a successful dentist, is now financially strapped, forced to live with her stubborn, conservative brother, a man whose dislike of television leads him to take his shotgun to her TV set.
Sibling tensions reach a crisis point when James chases Sally upstairs, brandishing a piece of firewood and threatening to kill her. She locks herself in her bedroom and refuses to come out, living off of apples stored in the attic while passing the time reading a trashy paperback novel. Unfortunately, their battle of wills lasts for over 400 pages.
October Light won the National Book Critics Circle Award and I gather it's a well-regarded piece of American literature but its brilliance was completely lost on me. I disliked just about everything in this book. The characters were either annoying or uninteresting, the story didn't pique my interest in the least, and the writing was nothing special. Worst of all, I detested the story-within-a-story device that only served to interrupt and draw-out the torture of reading this book. Obviously, it was supposed to have some relevance to the characters and their relationships in the main story, but I didn't see it. What's more, I didn't care and ended up skimming large sections.
By the time I finished October Light, I felt as if I'd spent a week cooped up with horrible relations whom I couldn't wait to flee.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A truly original, you might say innovative, book. It is remarkably inventive while, at the same time, it evokes the world of rural/small town Vermont circa 1975, replete with... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Rod Bell
And this by the hypocrite who wrote "On Moral Fiction". Pah.Published 7 months ago by G. A. Kathryns
I kept reading this book past the time that I knew I didn't like it. And it never improved. Did not like characters or plotPublished 7 months ago by KATHLEEN PHIPPS
I read for pleasure and entertainment. I did not enjoy this book and could not wait to finally finish it! Read morePublished 18 months ago by BJD
It took me over a year to read this book. I finished it last night. I have no patience for authors that have their characters go on and on about a topic, or have them reminiscing... Read morePublished 22 months ago by S McNabb
One of the best novels ever. It's rare that I award five stars.Published 23 months ago by Steven O.
This book needs a major proof reading and editing. This story was okay but hard to read with all the errorsPublished 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
Though it was chosen by my book club (I missed the meeting where it was discussed, on purpose), this tome went directly to my wastebasket after I finished it. Drivel.Published 23 months ago by Lady Luther
loved this book. it touches deeply seated emotions and makes you sympathize, laugh and wonder how much is family inspired.Published on January 22, 2014 by Will Howard