Monday, January 12, 2009

What I'm Reading Now-The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and Some Additional Thoughts on My Kindle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel Well, it seems it has taken me about 5 months to read this book, but not because I didn't like it and not because it's so long. I blame it on my Kindle (and my library). I love my Kindle (and my library!), but I've found that I tend to ignore my Kindle items and read whatever I have from the library because the library hates me and my notions of an acceptable amount of time to have a book checked out and regularly charges me for my nonsense. and I have a simple agreement. I pay them about $10 up front, and they let me keep a book on my Kindle as long as I want, and they never bother me about it again. All in all, it ends up being about the same either way since my library won't charge more than $7.50 for an item but they cast guilt and shame my way and threaten to send me to collections from time to time.

Also, if any of you have been paying rapt attention to my sidebar, you will notice that I have removed my "What's on my kindle" widget. I realized that I have a ton of things that are on my Kindle that I either A) read a year or more ago and have no intention of reviewing here, B) only have samples of, or C) am never going to get around to reading (see paragraph above). Since you have to have a minimum of 6 items in order to have a fancy carousel widget, I ended up using those old titles or sample titles, and that just seems like cheating. Also, since the titles I am reading are always on the back burner, the widget doesn't change much. So, whatever I have in my current reading pile, whether it is an actual, physical book or a Kindle download, it will now show up in my "What I'm reading now OR What I will soon be paying late fees on at the library" widget. And if any of this mattered to anyone in the least, you, whoever you are, need to promise yourself some time off from reading blogs for a while!

So, Edgar Sawtelle: First of all, you're not going to get much actual plot summary from me, so I suggest you click on the link above and check out the summaries at if you're not familiar with the general synopsis. I started reading this book in August, got a little over half-way through and then left off for a few months, so I didn't read the whole thing all together. I don't know if this matters, but I'm just disclosing. I know I had to spend some time going back and rereading things that I had totally forgotten about, so the story as a whole probably suffered a little bit because of this.

This brings me to a critique that I have of the Kindle (a critique that was not covered here). While it has a pretty good search feature and allows for fairly easy maneuvering throughout the downloaded material, I like to physically be able to go back and look for something in a book because I usually have a good idea of where to look. For example, I know whether to look on the top left-hand side of the book or about half-way down the right-hand side, but I probably don't have any idea, specifically, what chapter it was in or what page it was on. That might just be a weird thing about me, but there you go. You can't physically search a Kindle. You have one screen, and you have to sort through various search results to find what you're looking for. Now, if you know ahead of time that you will want to go back and reference something, you can bookmark it, but this doesn't help when you're three chapters down the road going, "What the heck happened in that one scene in the barn with the puppies?" In this instance, a search for either "barn" or "puppies" will turn up A LOT of results. You can also specify a location that you want to jump to, but unless you know that the quote you are looking for is at location 4378, this isn't very helpful either.

Anyway, back to the story-I really liked it. It seems like this was one of those books that people either really loved or couldn't stand.* I didn't REALLY LOVE IT! but I did like it a lot. I thought that Edgar's ability to train his dogs so precisely was fascinating. He is mute and a kid and is able to work wonders with the dogs. I am a grown-up, not mute, and, well, I have not been able to work wonders with my dogs. Let's just leave it at that.

That is not your chair. Get down!

*Sigh* That is not your chair either, but thank you for getting out of the other chair.

This book has been compared to Hamlet, and I can see where the comparisons come in; there are definitely some similar themes and plot lines running through this story. I've also heard that it's supposed to be all literary and cerebral. I don't know about that. Maybe it was and I just missed it, or maybe it's because if you can recognize the similarities to Hamlet that makes you all brainy or something. Whatever. I read it because I thought it would be an interesting story, and I liked it.

I loved the writing in this book. It was simple and clear and, I thought, to-the-point. There are others who will probably argue that at 576 pages there was nothing to-the-point about this book but I found it to be a quick and easy read, even though it took me 5 months to read it! I do think the Kindle might have had something to do with this. As you may recall from my previous review, there are no page numbers on the Kindle; instead there are "locations" and a progress bar. Even though I had seen The Story of Edgar Sawtelle on the shelves in bookstores, I had forgotten how large it was. I was truly shocked when I read a recent review that mentioned its 576-page length. When you are not hefting around an actual book, there are no page numbers, and you're enjoying the story, it's easy to think that a book is smaller than it is. Seriously, I remember thinking, Wow, this is a pretty short book-it's going really fast. Was it the book? Was it the Kindle? I don't know. Something to think about though if you're thinking of tackling a big book.

Some other reviews of Edgar Sawtelle:

Loved It! (Or at least liked it)
Michael at Books on the Nightstand mentions this a couple times, but I can't seem to find a full review anywhere. That's a shame since I think it was his glowing early review that got me interested in the first place.

Hated It! (Or maybe just not so much with the liking)

*Ha! I thought I had a bunch of other reviews to link to, but it turns out I was just thinking about all the comments that people have made on other blogs about how much they think they'll like or dislike the book based on other reviews and the fact that Oprah recommended it. So, if you have a review that you'd like me to link to, let me know, and I'll add it.

**3/31/09-Yay! Thanks to this week's Weekly Geeks project, I have been able to add additional reviews to the 4 I originally had.

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