Spooner

( 33 )

Overview

Warren Spooner was born after a prolonged delivery in a makeshift delivery room in a doctor's office in Milledgeville, Georgia, on the first Saturday of December, 1956. His father died shortly afterward, long before Spooner had even a memory of his face, and was replaced eventually by a once-brilliant young naval officer, Calmer Ottosson, recently court-martialed out of service. This is the story of the lifelong tie between the two men, poles apart, of Spooner's troubled childhood, troubled adolescence, violent ...
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Overview

Warren Spooner was born after a prolonged delivery in a makeshift delivery room in a doctor's office in Milledgeville, Georgia, on the first Saturday of December, 1956. His father died shortly afterward, long before Spooner had even a memory of his face, and was replaced eventually by a once-brilliant young naval officer, Calmer Ottosson, recently court-martialed out of service. This is the story of the lifelong tie between the two men, poles apart, of Spooner's troubled childhood, troubled adolescence, violent and troubled adulthood and Calmer Ottosson's inexhaustible patience, undertaking a life-long struggle to salvage his step-son, a man he will never understand.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
You might say that Warren Spooner, the title character of Pete Dexter's novel, is jinxed from birth. After a long, difficult delivery in a makeshift room in a Georgia doctor's office, he arrives in the world, but his twin brother dies -- and forever remains his mother's favorite. Spooner's father dies soon thereafter, leaving no imprint on the child's memory. Thereafter, Warren blunders awkwardly and hilariously through entire symphonies of criminal hijinks, somehow never exhausting the patience of his stepfather or our sense of humor. Best of all, National Book Award winner Pete Dexter (Paris Trout; Paper Trails) lets us settle into all these misadventures without squandering our sympathy.
Washington Post
"[Dexter's] is a voice like no other, though James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard may be counted among his distant literary cousins...So, this book is different! Not exactly what Pete Dexter usually writes, but madly interesting in what it sets out to do. I freely admit to a bias: As far as I'm concerned, Dexter can do no wrong."
Los Angeles Times
"In his latest book, newspaper columnist turned novelist turned screenwriter Pete Dexter has taken the literary-psychoanalytic bull by the horns and -- with characteristic and stylish aplomb -- blown smoke in its formidable face. His new novel, Spooner, essentially is an autobiographical roman a clef -- not really true, except in its major incidents; not quite wholly fictional, except, of course, where it is. It's a book that probably will perplex -- and then delight -- Dexter's longtime fans, since it really is a memoir thinly disguised as a novel, and, as such, it's a lot like his life: a big, sprawling mess of a book that's nonetheless nearly always entertaining and, in significant parts, genuinely touching. It's also a wonderful reminder that Dexter's journalistic eye for the tellingly instructive detail, particularly as it evokes character, still is second to none."
USA Today
"A story about a man's struggle to help his troubled stepson by a novelist who writes about trouble better than most anyone."
New York Times Book Review
"Lucky for Dexter, the consequences of the tardy, yet (in his judgment) unfinished release of Warren Spooner's wonderful, terrible life are less fraught, even felicitous.... In some 500 pages, Dexter brings Spooner to life with uncharacteristic expansiveness and tenderness. Spooner is a family epic that digs out the emotions packed in memory's earliest bonds - guilt, resentment, loyalty and love.... In Spooner, he unearths the experiences that underlie this nuanced sensibility, exposing the familial archetypes that shade his characters and directly engaging the potent emotions that emerge obliquely in his other books. It's a conversational novel, roving and inclusive, packed with Southern color and Northeastern grit, with rueful reflection and the contretemps of daily life that can't be avoided even on a remote island in Puget Sound. With Spooner, he demonstrates the impulse that keeps writers at their task; the longing to reassemble the whole; to see, however belatedly, who a person was, or could have been."
Susanna Moore
Pete Dexter, writing of the part played by love in the exuberant life of his hero, Spooner, and the fatal inevitability of the compromises that make life bearable, has given us a novel of picaresque vitality--outlandish, anecdotal, profuse, funny, profound.
Publisher's Weekkly
"Dexter's crowd-pleasing wiles are razor-sharp in this long-awaited novel, the madcap and touching, assured and (ahem) dexterous story of a very Dexter-like Warren Spooner."
Liesl Schillinger
Dexter brings Warren Spooner…to life with uncharacteristic expansiveness and tenderness…Spooner has little in common with Dexter's previous work…It's a conversational novel, roving and inclusive, packed with Southern color and Northeastern grit, with rueful reflection and the contretemps of daily life that can't be avoided even on a remote island in the Puget Sound…[Dexter] ended his novel The Paperboy with the words: "There are no intact men." With Spooner, he demonstrates the impulse that keeps writers at their task: the longing to reassemble the whole; to see, however belatedly, who a person was, or could have been.
—The New York Times
Carolyn See
…here's a novel that's different from anything Dexter has written before…It's new ground and a new tone. Jocose, ironic, even cheery…Dexter seems to look at this life as something of a tall tale, and he's right—there are sentences that don't seem to be exactly his. The book has a Mark Twain feel to it…Not exactly what Pete Dexter usually writes, but madly interesting in what it sets out to do.
—The Washington Post
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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a divisionof Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Warren Spooner bears an uncanny resemblance to his creator, National Book Award winner Dexter. Like Dexter, Spooner was raised in Georgia, worked as a newspaper reporter in Philadelphia, and was almost beaten to death in a bar fight. More conclusively, Spooner is also the author of a revisionist Western titled Deadwood (1986). Dexter follows his alter ego from childhood to semiretirement on Whidbey Island in Washington. This hilarious fictional memoir has little structure or plot and even less romance. Spooner devotes entire chapters to his favorite dogs but manages only a few dismissive sentences for the shadowy "Mrs. Spooner." Bar fights, bad divorces, car repossessions—the man's life is a 500-page country-and-western song. The glue that holds it all together is the relationship between Spooner and his stepfather, a cashiered naval officer aptly named Calmer. VERDICT There is too much material here, but it is difficult to see where it could be cut. Dexter's prose is razor sharp, and every page has at least one zinger. The Georgia section in particular will remind readers of the great Harry Crews. Don't miss this.—Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
Kirkus Reviews
From Dexter (Train, 2003, etc.), a rambling, improvisatory narrative of a not-terribly-compelling life. Warren Spooner arrives in unpromising circumstances, after his mother labored for 53 hours and his "better-looking" twin brother was born dead. On the very same day (Dec. 6, 1956), Congressman Rudolph Toebox coincidentally and conveniently dies, leading to an embarrassing sendoff at sea when his coffin refuses to sink. The two stories cross briefly because the commander in charge of the abortive burial at sea is Calmer Ottosson, who eventually becomes Spooner's stepfather. Throughout the novel, Dexter traces the many stages of Spooner's development. For example, he has to deal with his much more talented step-siblings, like prodigy Darrow (named after the lawyer), who learns both to read and to play chess while practically in the womb. In contrast, Spooner's talent, such as it is, is to piss in people's shoes and to confound the deputy with this anonymous crime. Spooner becomes an indifferent student but, unaccountably, a talented baseball player-until his promise crashes with an injury to his elbow. He then becomes a reporter, again with mixed results. Along the way we witness the uneasy relationship between Calmer, who becomes a teacher when mustered out of the Navy-and later has to investigate a scandal involving remedial students in his school system scoring at the 97th and 98th percentiles on standardized tests-and his stepson, who never experiences much success in anything. Dexter's technique is to roam around his narrative at a leisurely pace, multiplying incidents until the episodic ultimately devolves into the disorganized. And his ham-fisted comic approach involves suchhilarity as the aforementioned shoe-pissing and constantly nudging the reader in the ribs in delight at his own cleverness, coining names such as Dr. C. Elmer Cowhurl and the aforementioned Toebox. Ultimately, and lamentably, we wind up not caring about Spooner's fate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446540735
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/25/2010
  • Pages: 476
  • Sales rank: 619,419
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Pete Dexter
Pete Dexter began his working life with a U.S. Post office in New Orleans, Louisiana. He wasn't very good at mail and quit, then caught on as a newspaper reporter in Florida, which he was not very good at, got married, and was not very good at that. In Philadelphia he became a newspaper columnist, which he was pretty good at, and got divorced, which you would have to say he was good at because it only cost $300.

Dexter remarried, won the National Book Award and built a house in the desert so remote that there is no postal service. He's out there six months a year, pecking away at the typewriter, living proof of the adage What goes around comes around--that is, you quit the post office, pal, and the post office quits you.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

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(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 7, 2009

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    Review by The Reading Reviewer

    Warren Spooner from the moment of his birth chased himself trying to figure out where he belonged and what purpose he had in life. His twin brother born moments before him was still born - a fact his mother never could overcome. His biological father died before he had a chance to know who he was and his mother remarried soon enough for him realize he missed having a father. He grew up confused, misguided at times and seriously messed up for years and found that he enjoyed some petty thievery. But still he survived it all and lived through a number of trials by fire some of which involved literal fires. He grew up, moved around, lived through poverty, divorce and some terrible bosses at major newspapers until he found his voice in the one manner of living he never expected - writing. In a perpetual state of motion it took a woman to slow him down and show him how to be a husband, father and later in life care taker of the man who was for all intent and purposes his father. He fought some battles and won some wars but never walked away unscathed.

    All this from someone that no one thought would live past 20 - just goes to show that if it doesn't sink you might have to help it a little. He made friends, moved about the country and never traveled an easy road or took a job that was a great fit; he made things fit him not the other way around.

    This book while not an easy read is a good read on a number of levels. It makes you think about this character as he evolves from one personality, question why you like him and what is the motivation for wanting him to succeed. What the reader has to always remember is that we are all an accumulation of our life experiences and that some nurturing is required to help overcome that which has the potential to make us full out crazy.

    Always remember you have to pop a hole in the container to get it to sink!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful book

    SPOONER is a beautiful book. Once I got further into the characters I was so touched with the connection between people who understand that they try and play by the rules, but could also just throw it all out the window because of the absurdity they see in some situations.

    Pete Dexter has a wonderful & twisted sense of humor and some of the events are hilarious - but he also does a grea job at connecting the dots between humans who do there best, but fitting in to life doesn't come easily or naturally. The more I read this book the more touching I found it. I highly recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2013

    Why oh why?

    Why do reviewers feel they need to divulge so many plot details? A review does not give away information that a reader should experience by himself. You guys who feel you must write gushing summaries need to realize the purpose of the review.

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  • Posted October 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is a humorous satire that lampoons sacred societal icons

    On December 6 1953, after two plus days in labor, the woman gives birth to twins. The handsome newborn is dead on arrival while the uglier one named Warren Spooner survived. The mother prefers her deceased child over her breathing offspring.

    On the same day Congressman Rudolph Toebox dies too. His funeral is held at sea led by US Naval Commander Calmer Ottosson. Soon afterward Ottosson leaves the military and marries Spooner's mom. This leaves Warren with superstar step-siblings while his talent is to anger folks who fume for hours after brief encounters. Spooner actually finds he has a talent as a baseball pitcher, but an elbow injury aborted his career. He lands a reporter's job where he is universally loathed. Eventually with a bad cloud hanging over his head, he flees to Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington State. at the same that bad luck is Spooner's only mojo his stepfather becomes a successful principal.

    This is a humorous satire that lampoons sacred societal icons as nothing seems to go right for Spooner in his relationship with others starting with his birth and the death of his twin, and the success of his stepfather while the title character constantly fails. Although the dark graveyard jocularity at times overwhelms the cohesiveness of the story line, Peter Dexter provides his audience with a deep character study through a dirty lens that spoofs the American dream as a nightmare.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    Take the Spooner ride through life.

    Spooner. One of those characters that constantly has you shaking your head and wondering, "Why?" At the same time, a character worth caring about - one worth the reader's time in getting to know. Spooner is just one of many eccentric characters that populate his world. No matter how outrageous the situation or the people, it all rings true. Life is like that sometimes, isn't it? Central to it all is Spooner's relationship with his stepfather Calmer. Despite the chaos of it all, Calmer displays the patience of Job. In the end there is an unspoken understanding, a quiet love that wins the day. The book itself possesses a mix of humor and pathos that keeps it all in perspective. This was one of the best books I read in 2009. Excellent, energetic, and engaging writing by Dexter makes this a winner.

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  • Posted December 6, 2009

    You Can Not Just Read This Book

    Intensely personal feelings expressed by Dexter allow one not only to have a great reading experience but to treasure the after-thoughts of this semi fictitious story. The life of a man struggling from childhood surrounded by family of brilliant minds and ill mother. One more thing. It is a hilarious look at life woes.

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  • Posted October 4, 2009

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    DEXTER KNOWS HOW TO HOLD A READERS INTEREST

    SPOONER
    Pete Dexter
    Grand Central Publishing
    ISBN: 878-0-446-54072-8
    $26.99 - Hardback
    459 pages
    Reviewer: Annie Slessman

    Pete Dexter writes as he has apparently lived, disconnected but somehow still hanging on to the whole. His new novel, SPOONER, is a maze leading one on a journey of discovery. What the reader discovers is a story of a young, troubled youth who would rather urinate in your shoes that wear them. A young man who appears to be laid-back to outsiders but is searching constantly for his own truth.whatever that might be.

    Spooner, the main character of this story, was trouble to his mother even prior to his
    birth. As she likes to tell others, he almost killed her in his attempt to become a member of our world. A woman with chronic asthma, she frequently took to her bed to escape that which she couldn't or wouldn't deal with. Dead before his birth, Spooner's father was replaced by Calmer Ottosson, a young naval officer that was dismissed from the service when he allowed a U.S. Senator's body flop around like a dead fish when he was being buried at sea.

    Calmer was a good name for Spooner's stepfather in that he was the only calming influence in the family. He picked up the pieces of Spooner's family and never seemed to waver in doing so. Even as Spooner floundered in his attempt to find happiness, Calmer was always there to hold his hand and provide support.

    The first half of the book brings more laughs than watching Saturday Night Live while the latter part of the book takes on a more serious tone. I admit to laughing out loud at the young Spooner's actions and wanting to cry out, "For Pete's Sake, Spooner.get it together," reading the last pages of the work.

    Regardless of your likes and dislikes, everyone will find something in this story with which they can relate. While it is a laborious process to read 459 pages and maintain interest, Dexter has managed to do just that.keep your interest.

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  • Posted October 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    AN IRRESISTIBLE BREW OF COMEDY AND TRAGECY

    If you've read Deadwood and Paris Trout, you're probably standing line right now to buy a copy of Pete Dexter's latest, Spooner. It's been far too long (how many years now?) since we've had the pleasure of hearing from Dexter, but Spooner is certainly worth the wait. There it all is - Dexter's incomparable style, what I call an exuberantly tragic way of looking at life. Plus, his unstoppable humor, a guffaw on every page, and mirth making on-target descriptions, such as when referring to his cousin Arlo's wife, probably still in her thirties: "(She) was sunshine itself, but already whiskery, and the best arm wrestler in the family." Or, when sharing a beer with and expressing high regard for the same wife, She "liked to pop off the bottle caps against the kitchen table, and sometimes the glass lip would come off with it too, and she would drink the beer anyway, right out of the bottle. Sunshine itself."

    Spooner is one of the those fellows to whom whatever can happen will happen plus many unimaginable happenings, too. He seemed almost marked for tough luck from birth. Born in Milledgeville, Georgia, he was one of fraternal twins "second out the door." Unfortunately, his better-looking brother, Clifford, was dead on arrival. Nonetheless, Clifford was always to be mother Lily's favorite child. Widowed a few short years later she married Calmer Ottosson, a shy fellow who was discharged from the Navy following an unfortunate happening at an important burial at sea.

    Try as he might Calmer tried to understand Spooner and help him in every way, which seemed to be an impossible task for both. Yet he perseveres. The two weather adversities (and there are many) together.

    Spooner is a story of love, loyalty, and family, a brilliant story of two who keep on trying to make lemonade when life throws them tomatoes.

    - Enjoy!

    - Gail Cooke

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