Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Cry of the Sloth

Finished June 29
The Cry of the Sloth by Sam Savage

This novel is entirely composed of letters, notes, and other writings by the characters. The central character is Andrew Whittaker, a middle-aged man, whose wife left him for about two years ago. Andrew inherited a few rental properties from his father, but they appear to be running into disrepair and the tenants don't always pay the rent. He is beginning to have financial difficulties because of this. Some of the letters included are signed by other people, but I wasn't sure whether they really were, as the first couple were praising Andrew, as opposed to the impression I got from his own struggling writing. Later in the book, I began to revise this feeling, believing that they were indeed composed by others.
The action here takes place over a period of four months from July through October, sometime during the Nixon administration. Andrew seems to me to be suffering from depression, with his mental state deteriorating over the course of the novel.
Besides the letters to his ex-wife, sister, mother, tenants, an old college roommate, and creditors, there is also a series of letters to potential contributors to a literary magazine that Andrew created and edited. It also is suffering from financial problems and he has an ambitious plan to hold a literary festival to raise the necessary monies to bring it back into the black. Besides letters, other writings include bits of the novel Andrew is working on, shopping lists, advertisements for his rental units, and signs aimed at the tenants.
The title comes from an entry in a encyclopedia set about animals that Andrew finds in his house, and reappears at several points in the novel as something that Andrew identifies with.
This is an unusual book, that forced me to slow down to read it.

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