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This Side of Jordan Hardcover – October 20, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Down by the River and son of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz returns with the first in a planned series of three novels that attempts to delve into the American psyche during the Jazz Age, starting in the pivotal year of 1929. Schultz has done copious research about the period for this tale of Alvin Pendergast, an Illinois farm boy who survives tuberculosis. After a local dance marathon, Alvin becomes the easy prey of con man Chester Burke, who persuades him to come along on travels and capers that will take them on the road and up against manifold dangers. Unfortunately, the story is so weighed down by patched-together country and old-time vernacular, long stretches of aimless dialogue and detail and background data about irrelevant characters that the story never takes off. Does it mean to be a tall tale, historical novel, road caper, fantasia, cornpone satire, crime thriller or some combination? Random and unconvincing in every way, it's obvious that when Fantagraphics asks, how does the publisher of The Complete Peanuts reject a novel by Charles Schulz's son? the answer is, sadly, they could not. (Sept.)
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Schulz proves himself to be a handy wordsmith in this literally ambitious novel of pre-Depression America. Hand this straight-faced and multifaceted almost-satire to fans of the southern gothic tradition, all the way from Flannery O’Connor to John Kennedy Toole. (Booklist)

Monte Schulz proves that his father was not the only talented storyteller in the family.... Monte has carved out his own stake with This Side of Jordan, the first novel of a planned trilogy.... Even though there are moments of brutal violence in the vein of Cormac McCarthy, Jordan is more about the young man facing his future with uncertain terms.... You’ll find yourself enraptured by his style, fittingly written in honor of his father. (Bruce Grossman - Bookgasm)

Did I mention how good the writing is? The writing is excellent... The setting is so vivid I felt like I could fall into the book and lose myself there, landing on some dusty road in a tourist camp where the hicks waited to be fleeced or killed by Chester. (Cory Doctorow - Boing Boing)

Monte Schulz has proven that his father isn’t the only Schulz with considerable storytelling talent. … Schulz manages to capture a moment in history, a piece of humanity in transition. It’s bleak, but funny, and smartly written. …[R]eaders of good fiction should appreciate what Schulz has accomplished. (Michael C. Lorah - Newsarama)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; First Edition edition (October 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606992961
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606992968
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,609,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Kennedy on January 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had high hopes when I started this one. The narrative style was natural and transparent, the dialogue was convincing, and the descriptions were thorough without being tiresome. However ... I found myself liking this book less and less the more I read it. Mr. Schulz set himself a challenge by deciding to use a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist, and that decision has cost him...

Alvin Pendergast is a little twerp. Okay, he's got tuberculosis; I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for him, but as a reader privy to his thoughts and observing his actions, I did not like him at all. He's stupid, ignorant, mindlessly belligerent ... he doesn't want people to think of him as a hick, but the truth is he's the biggest hick in the entire book. He failed to earn my respect and he clearly did not deserve my sympathy.

Rascal the dwarf is the most appealing character but he comes across more like a cartoon than a person. He's a witty, eccentric raconteur, constantly telling tall tales (which might or might not be true) and he bears adversity with a certain aplomb. Constantly cheerful and blessed with the gift of gab, he never meets a stranger. Rascal is able to be at ease and find something to appreciate in every situation - especially when Alvin sees nothing worthwhile in it.

Chester the sociopath is more of a prop than a character. He's just "evil" and that's all we know about him. He appears in the story to perform atrocious acts and is absent the rest of the time.

About 2/3 of the way through the book, in Icara, Illinois, a Peanuts character makes a subtle cameo appearance. You'll know it when you see it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on September 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A multi-layered and beautifully written account of Depression-era middle America, Monte Schulz's new novel "This Side of Jordan" is one of the season's most unexpected surprises. In an unlikely collaboration--Schulz, son of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, and Fantagraphic Books (a label mostly known for graphic novels) have released a title of real literary merit. Don't let the unorthodox premise fool you, though. In "Jordan," the protagonist, a consumptive farm boy named Alvin, joins forces with a con man killer and a dwarf. Together, the threesome traverse America's heartland embarking on unlikely friendships, random acts of violence and facing a final showdown in, of all places, the circus.

Sounds like quite an adventure--and sometimes it can be. There are some moments within the crime spree that evoke memories of "Bonnie and Clyde" and/or "Badlands." But far from a propulsive plot driven narrative, Monte Schulz has achieved something deeper and richer than you might anticipate. With descriptive prose echoing some of the Southern greats, "This Side of Jordan" plays almost like a series of essays. Each segment of the book has its own voice with its own characters and plot. It is these individual tales, which range from hilarious to heartbreaking, that weave together a remarkable and fateful journey.

Schulz has really captured the feel of a time and place with spot-on characterizations and locales. I particularly liked the ambivalence and truthfulness within the oddball leads on this road trip. Alvin is no hero. Initially, you root for him to break free of his illness and the confines of his dreary life--but soon, you come to realize that he's not a particularly likable character. The dwarf, verbose and show-offy, is an obvious source of ridicule for Alvin.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TrishNYC VINE VOICE on October 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I acquired this book about a year ago and every time I would start to read it, I found that I could not continue. I finally forced myself to finish it and though I am glad I did, it is probably not my kind of book. Schultz's description of depression era America is beautiful, his imagery accurate and his recreation of the period is excellent. His research into this era definitely paid off as he was able to capture the voice and sentiment of an age past with great aplomb. But while I believe the author worked very hard at this book, the unfolding story proved too slow and mostly meandering for me. The wordiness of the book, its inability to formulate an idea and keep it interesting eventually made me realize that this book would not be one I revisit. Alvin Pendergrast's escape from the drudgery and sickness of his current life into the promised excitement and adventure with Chester Burke never quite lived up to its promised potential. Chester as the villain of this piece lacked a certain nuance that would maybe have made him a bit more believable/enjoyable outside a Dickensian tale. He was evil and violent and he does not deviate much from that. I wish this character had more depth, even if it was all bad but at least gave me an insight into his other facets.

I think that my inability to fully appreciate this book may be more a matter of taste than any deficiencies on the author's part. The synopsis of the book drew me in but was unable to sustain my interest. But I do believe that fans of this genre will love it for its ability to elegantly capture a by gone era with amazing accuracy.
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