Another Crappy Book

The Other by David Guterson is another crappy book.

It is hard to imagine this is the same guy who wrote Snow Falling on Cedars, his spare, evocative 1994 debut.

The Other is about the friendship between Neil and John, two childhood friends. John grew up to be a recluse, living in the woods.  When he died Neil wrapped the body in a cedar mat and dumped it in the cave.

He did nothing about the death until rangers find the body 22 years later. Then Neil discovers John has left him $440 million.

Neil purchases – of all things – a hybrid car. He and his wife quit their jobs, but they stay in their old bungalow, while earning more than 60,000 bucks a day in interest and dividends.

I was alerted by a reviewer that maybe Guterson is trying to disguise the sheer improbability of the story by burying the reader with useless facts.

Every page is littered with the names of mountain ranges, mountains, waterways and trails; streets, cross streets and street addresses; song titles, musicians; book titles and authors.

The net result is every bit as entertaining as reading a street directory.

Even Mark Sides, a lawyer who appears for only a few pages, receives a complete biography: “His undergraduate degree, from Berkeley in ‘68, was in the political economy of natural resources. He’d gone to law school at Stanford and had graduated in ‘71, Order of the Coif. Sides had clerked for a US Court of Appeals judge in San Francisco and had lectured, in ’03, at the University of Washington on the Model Toxics Control Act.”

This résumé goes on for a few hundred more words, followed by an equally detailed account of Sides’ office, including the buildings in downtown Seattle.

By this point, the reader has been wading through bogs of useless information for so long that the irrelevance of Mark Sides’ life and view don’t really matter.

It goes on like this until the end, when Neil visits a used-books store (on Admiral Way, in case you care to know), and lists 11 volumes he’s bought recently, any one of which sounds more entertaining than the novel I just threw away.

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