Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Last Week: Spooner by Pete Dexter

In the advance reading copies of Pete Dexter’s long-awaited new novel, Spooner (Grand Central), the author himself not only tells readers what took so long, he also manages to tacitly tell us exactly why he’s worth the wait:
As far as I know, sometime in November of last year, the book you have in your hands was three years late. There was many reasons it was three years late, probably the most conspicuous being that it was once 250 pages or so longer than the version you hold, and it takes maybe half a year to write an extra 250 pages, and at least twice that to subtract them back out. I realize this leaves another year and a half unaccounted for, and all I can say about that, readers, is get in line. Whole decades are missing from my life, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There’s more -- including a Dexter-style summary of the trouble to the business of publishing a book three years late can present -- but you get the idea. Dexter is vivacious and his voice is light and bright but he manages at the same time to bring his words home with some weight. Not everyone can manage this neat feat: light and bright and weight.

To my mind, the story in Spooner is less important than the journey. We are immersed in the troubled life of Georgia-born Warren Spooner. A coming-of-age story on one level. The tale of the possible connections between men on another. But this is Pete Dexter, so it’s really none of those things. And more.

There are whispers that Spooner is at least semi-autobiographical. “The novel he was born to write,” says his publisher. Never mind that: the book is terrific. If you’ve not read this National Book Award-winning author before, Spooner is a great place to start.



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