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In his delicate and hilarious first novel, Porter Shreve paints a fast-moving tale about the grungy, romantic allure of newspaper work and the muddled conspiracy of nature and nurture in a young man's maturation. The Obituary Writer's narrator, Gordie Hatch, has papers in his blood: his late father was a crackerjack reporter, his mother a journalism-school secretary. His environment reeks of his avocation, too, from the bundled newspapers in his garage to his comforter, which bears old headlines like TITANIC SINKS, SACCO AND VANZETTI GUILTY, and LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPED. By age 8, Gordie is fully ready to grab the newspaperman's baton, or, more bluntly, to get a paper route. ("I grew up with a heightened sense of my own importance, which my mother encouraged," he says. Not least because she seems to have delivered far more papers than he.) In 1989, when he moves straight from J School into an entry-level position at the hallowed St. Louis Independent, Gordie experiences an eternal, embryonic sense of belonging within its perfectly stereotypical nerve center, one that might have housed his father.
Sometimes I'd swear I could sense him looking out through my eyes, a young reporter waiting for the flare in the sky that points to the great discovery. I'd stop at the rackety wire machines under the mural of Remington's Pony Express to scroll through the overnight news, then pick up a late edition from the stacks before taking the long, slow route to my desk.But Gordie knows he can't afford to move slowly. His beat, the obituary desk, is either a stepping stone for the gifted or a place to park damaged has-beens. When he makes three crucial judgment errors in succession, he is suddenly ensnared by a Southern femme fatale--who lures him into an exquisitely drawn world of highly un-newsworthy bank clerks, dog shows, and bumbling small-town artistes. A far cry from the collapse of European communism, which his luckier colleagues get to cover. Though the final third of The Obituary Writer veers into formulaic suspense-novel territory at times, Gordie always remains engagingly self-aware and the novel's denouement is well worth a bit of tough sledding. Will our hero realign himself with his destined path? How strong is fate, exactly? We cannot say, Gentle Reader. You must uncork this fine, funny novel for yourself. --Jean Lenihan
Balancing lies and reality is a complex pursuit in Shreve's first novel, a poignant coming-of-age story centering on an aspiring journalist, Gordon Hatch, eager to live up to the standard set by his late father, a renowned reporter who covered John F. Kennedy's assassination and its aftermath. Gordie, 22, is presently a lowly obituary writer, a job he takes seriously, preparing a file of "advancers," obituaries of elderly famous people. He gets a phone call, which might be his first scoop and lucky break, from Alicia Whiting, a young widow, who pulls Gordie into the heart of her own pathological identity crisis. While trying to hide the truth of his humble job at the St. Louis Independent from his mother, who constantly compares his career to that of his father, and from Alicia, who quickly becomes his lover, Gordie weaves a web of lies nearly impossible to escape. But Gordie's web is nowhere near as complex as Alicia's, and as he faces some shocking truths about his lover, and about his parents, Gordie has to reevaluate the importance of truth itself. Although the story raises compelling questions about honesty and friendship, Gordie's epiphanies lack power, often falling flat: when Gordie finally appreciates the loyalty and support of his mother and his former girlfriend, he says, "It dawned on me that my mother and Thea were good, that they had wanted to see me on my birthday." Lucidly demonstrating the widening gulf between Gordie and those who love him, Shreve then offers disappointingly little to bridge it, particularly since the lies and betrayals exposed are devastating, though the ultimate surprise, the lynchpin of the plot, lacks credibility. Yet unexpected twists, the deft buildup of suspense and a clever premise sustain the momentum. Agent, Joe Regal. Author tour. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Great read! Really enjoyed the story, the twists, and the characters. Waiting for the movie!Published 4 months ago by Ana Forest
I may have read this book by mistake as there is another book by the same title. Hope the "other book" is much, much better.Published 9 months ago by Becky C.
THIS WAS A VERY GOOD BOOK. LED YOU IN DIRECTIONS THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT. WELL WRITTEN (FOR MY STYLE), AND NOT OVERLY DESCRIPTIVE. JUST TO THE POINTS AND NO WANDERING.Published 14 months ago by KAY WESTERMAN
It held my interest, but I didn't find it exceptional. There was, however, a slightly Walter-Mitty feeling about the piece, which I did greatly enjoy. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Linda Hamner
A really good, effortless read. Nice character -- though the extreme jealousy was more hinted at than really gone into; also think we could have had more soul-searching with Thea... Read morePublished on August 9, 2010 by L. Monstuart
I just finished reading this book last night and have to say it is one of those rare books I hated to see end. Shreve has a way of getting into the souls of his characters. Read morePublished on February 18, 2009 by Zipporah
The young narrator of this tale is an obituary writer for the St. Louis Independent, but he has big dreams. Read morePublished on June 30, 2007 by Anne Parker
I found this book on the shelf of a used bookstore and was immediately intrigued. I identified with the main character of "The Obituary Writer", young aspiring journalist... Read morePublished on July 3, 2004
Gordie Hatch is an obituary writer, a position he sees as the start of a great career in journalism, following in the footsteps of his father. Read morePublished on September 17, 2002 by Chris MB