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The Cry of the Sloth
     

The Cry of the Sloth

5.0 2
by Sam Savage, Michael Mikolowski
 

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Living on a diet of fried Spam, vodka, sardines, cupcakes, and Southern Comfort, Andrew Whittaker is slowly being sucked into the morass of middle age. A negligent landlord, small-time literary journal editor, and aspiring novelist, he is--quite literally--authoring his own downfall. From his letters, diary entries, and fragments of fiction, to grocery lists and

Overview

Living on a diet of fried Spam, vodka, sardines, cupcakes, and Southern Comfort, Andrew Whittaker is slowly being sucked into the morass of middle age. A negligent landlord, small-time literary journal editor, and aspiring novelist, he is--quite literally--authoring his own downfall. From his letters, diary entries, and fragments of fiction, to grocery lists and posted signs, this novel is a collection of everything Whittaker commits to paper over the course of four critical months.

Beginning in July, during the economic hardships of the Nixon era, we witness our hero hounded by tenants and creditors, harassed by a loathsome local arts group, and tormented by his ex-wife. Determined to redeem his failures and eviscerate his enemies, Whittaker hatches a grand plan. But as winter nears, his difficulties accumulate, and the disorder of his life threatens to overwhelm him. As his hold on reality weakens and his schemes grow wilder, his self-image as a placid and slow-moving sloth evolves into that of a bizarre and frantic creature driven mad by solitude.

In this tragicomic portrait of a literary life, Sam Savage proves that all the evidence is in the writing, that all the world is, indeed, a stage, and that escape from the mind's prison requires a command performance.

Editorial Reviews

Joseph Salvatore
Savage's satire is in many places spot on and funny in a way that will make other writers squirm.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
At an age when many authors are pushing stylistic walkers, 68-year-old Savage is just hitting his stride. His new work is every bit as engaging and original as his debut, Firmin. Protagonist Andrew Whittaker, like the rat Firmin, is something of a literary lowlife. He's a writer who is a legend in his own mind, the vexing editor of a marginal literary journal, an incompetent slumlord, an increasingly tired and tiresome bore and boor, a man about to crash from his own imaginary space into a very unforgiving earth. This novel consists of everything he has written over four months: mostly letters but also remnants of his tortuous prose, shopping lists, and diary entries. VERDICT Set in the early Seventies, this book will certainly appeal to boomers and seniors, but it would also be a great read for young adults. Its best audience would be other writers and creative individuals generally, and it would be a delightful reading-group choice. Great for holiday gift-giving, too.—Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico
Kirkus Reviews
Four months in the life of a desperate, depressed and sexually frustrated landlord. Andrew Whittaker blames "low-quality tenants" for the disrepair of his buildings in the Midwestern town of Rapid Falls. He has a somewhat better relationship with estranged wife Jolie, even though she left him to pursue an (unsuccessful) acting career in New York City. Letters to Jolie and a variety of significant others chronicle the declining fortunes of Andy's real-estate holdings and of Soap: A Journal of the Arts, the literary publication he founded and edits. Savage (Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, 2006) intersperses as well grocery lists, rental ads ("BIG AND COZY!"), rejection form letters and fragments of what Andy describes as "an odd little something which I suppose we'll have to call a novel," whose protagonist is plainly his alter ego. Correspondence also documents sexual behavior that might seem inappropriate and/or despicable, but mostly comes across pathetic. Andy attempts to change his luck by planning a literary festival that sounds more like a circus or carnival: Its slogan is, "Far Out is Fun"; attractions include elephants and bumper cars. "I thought we could give the cars the names of literary fashions-Romanticism, Realism, etc.-and a person could choose his affiliation and crash it into the others," he says to an aspiring poet he's hoping to seduce, despite the fact that she's a schoolgirl. Andy attempts to convince former friends who have become successful writers to participate in the festival without recompense, but the only result from such missives is that one of them starts seeing Jolie. His solipsistic ravings barely acknowledge the Nixon presidency during whichthese letters are written. Indomitable human spirit, or a master of self-delusion? Either way, Andy is a triumphant achievement, squirm-inducingly credible and the palpitating heart of this very funny, very dark novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781566892643
Publisher:
Coffee House Press
Publication date:
11/16/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Sam Savage is the author of the bestseller Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, an American Library Association Notable Book and Barnes&Noble Discover Great New Writers Award finalist. A native of South Carolina, Savage holds a PhD in philosophy from Yale University, was once an editor of a literary quarterly, and now lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Madison, Wisconsin
Date of Birth:
November 9, 1940
Place of Birth:
Camden, South Carolina
Education:
B.A. in Philosophy, Yale, 1968; University of Heidelberg (2 years), Ph.D. in Philosophy, Yale, 1979
Website:
http://www.theoldrat.com

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The Cry of the Sloth 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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