- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Coffee House Press (September 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1566892317
- ISBN-13: 978-1566892315
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,002,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Cry of the Sloth Paperback – September 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Middle-aged underachiever Andy Whittaker plots a preposterous literary festival in this scathingly funny epistolary pastiche from Firmin author Savage. Andy is the editor of Soap, an inconsequential literary magazine ridiculed by rival The Art News, which Andy dismisses as the in-house journal for a tiny clique of very conventional, very middle-class writers and painters. His wife, Jolie, has left him, his mother is dying and the apartment buildings inherited from his father are crumbling. Fern Moss, a precocious poetess, taunts Andy with provocative poems and photos, while Dahlberg Stint, a hardware store employee and former Soap contributor, sends increasingly sinister threats. After his phone is shut off, a beleaguered Andy hunkers down to compose plaintive letters to Jolie, excuses for not visiting his mother, dismissive replies to Soap hopefuls, snide notes to his tenants, pitiful missives to a former one-night-stand, fake letters to the editor and prose poems, little existential parables of tedium and despair, set in Africa probably. Andy's self-aggrandizing and self-pitying grow more desperate as Savage expertly skewers Andy's comically insufferable exterior to reveal the tragic if insubstantial soul of a frustrated writer. (Sept.)
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Top customer reviews
illusions brought on by loneliness. Sadly this book is about someone out there.
The Grand Master of self excuses:
"I have to appear in court at some point. I forget when, and will you go with me? I am embarrassed to ask, since I never apologized for the accident with the vase at Ginny's party. I would apologize now, except it would look then as if I were doing it only in order to get your legal services for free, which of course they have to be, since I am in a tight spot financially, as I have said already. This seems to be an insoluble social conundrum. It is amazing how, wherever I turn these days, new difficulties spring up."
And that is the way Andrew Whittaker, our lazy, aspiring author, horrific slumlord hero of Sam Savage is through the whole novel. We are only exposed to the letters written by Andrew to others in his life and through them we see his whole personality, his behaviors, his angst, his neediness. Everything that happens in the world is "done to him". No one is safe under the scrutiny of Andrew Whittaker and he is a harsh critic, a self-aggrandized editor and author.
His cruelty was unchecked as he writes to one of his tenants about his very wife, "Perhaps her arms, though large and braced firmly against the sides of the tub, are simply not up to the task of effectuating the gradual lowering of the rest of her bulk into the water, and as a consequence she just lets herself plop." In the same letter he explains the law of Archimedes and water displacement.
And not only was he a bad husband, friend and landlord, but he was an awful liar. Most of his letters contained two or three lies to manipulate the reader and receiver of his missives.
On the whole Andrew Whittaker was an awful human being but the author Sam Savage kept me riveted wanting to learn more of his cretin. I could not put it down until I finished.
I found myself sitting at a coffee shop laughing out loud and wiping tears from my eyes or giggling like a lunatic at some sentence or other. Savage is a genius. I loved this book and will look for other works of his.
Whittaker is on a downward spiral into loneliness and madness as he laments where his life is while being chased by his tenants who are tired of apartments infested with rats and roofs caving in. It takes a few chapters/letters to get into the style of The Cry of the Sloth, as the tone and often the truthfulness of the letters is seemingly rambling or unrelated. Yet that is often the point and once you get into the meat all the pieces start falling together with cringing laughter. There is a surprising amount of action given the style, but Whittaker's run-in with the local literary community and his attempts at organizing a literary festival more than keep things going. His letters to the local paper were my favorite sections, especially the pseudonyms he created.
Often sad, yet humorous The Cry of the Sloth is one to pass on to friends. I give The Cry of the Sloth 9 out of 10 Hats. Savage has established himself an original niche of short but deep books for lovers of the written word that stay with you. Do yourself a favor and check out his Firmin or Sloth. In the end I did like Firmin more, but that mostly had to do with the character Firmin being so charming and it being set in a bookstore.