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Spooner Hardcover – September 24, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, October 2009: Warren Spooner is a sad sack. His mother despises him as the surviving twin from a hideously painful delivery. He's not very smart, and his one redeeming talent--baseball--is nullified by catastrophic injury. He gets into trouble, a lot. Though he manages to organize his life through marriage and a (terrible) job, the self-destructive behavior endures. Fortunately, Pete Dexter--winner of the National Book Award for Paris Trout--provides a calming figure in his step-father, Calmer Ottosson, a man with his own life of promise and disappointment, as well as inexhaustible patience for his wayward ward. Plot's not Dexter's focus--the story ambles through a series of monstrous vignettes projected through unblinking eyes, to the point where the awfulness becomes hilarious and absurd (e.g. a burial at sea gone horribly wrong, complete with erotic misunderstandings). It's like reading Garrison Keillor through a glass of blood: relentlessly dark, yet ultimately affirming. --Jon Foro

From Publishers Weekly

What can you do when your twin brother, dead at birth, is your mother's favorite? This is only one of the burdens placed on young Warren Spooner, the hero of National Book Award–winner Dexter's calamitously funny and riotously tragic new novel. Spooner, who tends toward a life of criminal mischief, turns out to be a baseball phenom, but after an elbow injury puts an end to his pitching career, he ends up a newspaper reporter in Philadelphia, where he's so universally disliked that firing him is at the top of his editor's to-do list. Spooner eventually settles down, becomes a columnist and published novelist, and starts a family. He is dogged, though, by a combination of bad luck and bad judgment, and eventually retreats to Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington State, where he learns that good fences don't necessarily make good neighbors. Spooner's story is juxtaposed with that of his stepfather, Calmer Ottosson, a naval officer turned high school principal, whose dedication to his family is in direct contrast to his stepson's bellicose adventures. Although raggedly plotted, the rambunctious narrative is filled with hilarious scenes, including a naval burial at sea that goes horribly awry, a literary luncheon featuring Spooner and Margaret Truman that ends with a stampede of little old ladies, and a misguided act of vengeance that backfires and puts Spooner in the hospital. The novel's premise—that life is one big vale of tears and that writing about it wittily and exuberantly is the best one can do—might not work in real life, but it pays off in spades for Dexter and his tragicomically conflicted alter ego. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (September 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446540722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446540728
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,428,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In his latest novel Pete Dexter has created two unforgetable complex male characters way bigger than life. Spooner, a twin who survives, is born in Milledgeville, Georgia in 1956. His mother Lily, who may have been happy only twice in her life-- "the night JFK was elected president, and the day Richard Nixon quit the White House"-- soon loses her husband and Spooner's father Ward to a mysterious illness. A few years later she marries Calmer Ottosson, recently court-martialed out of the navy, who comes South from South Dakota, where most people "wouldn't smile if you gave them the Nobel Prize."

The events in Spooner and Calmer's lives take up most of the rest of this brilliantly comic but a tad-too-long novel (466 pages). Spooner is expelled from kindergarten when he becomes sexually aroused by his female teacher, secretly urinates in the male neighbors' shoes at night, and in high school has no talent for football but relishes collisions. He eventually marries a woman in part because she is someone who would not forsake a dog and becomes a relatively successful newspaper reporter in Philadelphia-- or "staff writer" if you prefer. He is nurtured, sometimes from across the country by Calmer, who holds several thankless positions as a public school teacher over the years and finally winds up teaching English, and has the novel idea that teachers should treat students like human beings. He is, in Spooner's words, "the greatest man he ever knew" and someone whose good opinion he craved more than any other person's.

A lot of other sometimes motley characters pass through the novel: the sadistic Coach Tinker from Spooner's high school; Stroop, his boss in his short stint of selling baby pictures from door to door in Florida; his boxing buddy Harry Faint.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the first novels that I can wholeheartedly recommend in a long time. It combines spare details, psychological insight, and perfect comedic timing. It is truly a delight to read.

The format is unusual - a set of short stories, ordered chronologically. The details and descriptions are those that are important to the characters in the scenes. There is no attempt to describe in cinematic detail the workings of the scene in question. Do not expect to learn much about Philadelphia geography or Milledgeville GA politics. I found the sparse descriptions to be a great relief. I was told everything that I needed to know to understand what struck the scene's main character(s) and nothing more. There was no need to visualize the unimportant or ponder the tangential.

A word in defense of this novel against critics, who usually claim one way or or another that the novel is lacking in detail or seems unfinished: this is a writer telling a story in a colloquial fashion, like a storyteller. This book does not tell how to become Spooner. Rather it tells what it is like to be Spooner in several individual moments. Thus no character is explained away - each character retains his/her dignity.

This sort of writing is unpretentious and frees the reader to laugh and ponder along with the book's characters.

If you want a how-to guide that really tells you nothing, watch Batman Begins. If you want a good novel, read this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A while back, I watched an offbeat movie on Netflix that I had never heard of, called The Paper Boy. I thought it was terrific and decided to see if the movie had been based upon a book. It was, and its author was Pete Dexter. I did a Google search and found that Mr. Dexter had written at least a half dozen other novels, including Spooner. Since its paperback version was nearly 500 pages, I didn't think the Kindle price of $8.99 was such a bad deal, so I bought it. Boy, am I glad I did. Right off the bat, however, let me tell you that this is not a book for everyone, but if you enjoy the storytelling of Joseph Heller and John Irving, I think you'll absolutely love Spooner.
Essentially, this is a complex biography about two men - Warren Spooner and his stepfather, Calmer Ottosson - and their unusual and unlikely relationship. In a way, it's a kind of love story. Now, before you go getting all worked up and saying "I don't want to read any love story about two men," just relax. We're talking stepfather-stepson love here, nothing perverted. On the contrary. It's all about mutual respect, some given and some earned.
On more than one occasion while reading this book, my wife heard me laugh aloud, sometimes hysterically; that is the essential nature of Spooner. Indeed, it is a very funny book. However, it is also a complex tragic story, replete with a sense of poignancy that I always seem attracted to.
I can't wait to read another of Mr. Dexter's books. But for now, I would suggest you get started with Spooner. I promise you won't be disappointed.
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By G.L. on July 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even the acknowledgments are incredibly funny. Dexter makes it look effortless. The understated regionalisms, the crafty plot structure, the characters you could swear you keep bumping into in real life, well, it all accumulates and you start wishing everybody at work would just shut up so you could finish up, go home, and read your book. Then you realize it can't be effortless or you'd have read more novels as amazing as this. You start regretting that Spooner's going to end sooner or later, so you check the copyright dates on Dexter's other novels in order to figure out how fast he writes and therefore how long before the next one is published. Don't even bother denying it, because we all know you.
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