Guterson on the Canvas and he Can’t Get Up
The devil and David Guterson made off with the 1995 PEN/Faulkner award while his fellow Bainbridge Islander, somewhere in there, was picking up a thunderous ovation at a company Christmas party for busting suds so well. The disparity was not yet criminal, though, because ‘Monstrous’ was still being written. But in two years time its manuscript would begin to make the rounds, and after five years of being told in not so many words to come back after I’ve killed a few people, I declared my independence.
‘Snow’ beats ‘Monstrous’ 778 to 6 in Amazon reviews, and I can vouch that I’ve netted just four if you remove the two I solicited. Guterson’s book has been appraised as recently as ten days ago while no one has uttered a peep about ‘Monstrous’ in over five years, and in fact ‘Snow Falling On Cedars’ has been reviewed 89 times since my ‘Autobiography of a Serial Killer but for the Grace of God’ died a “natural” death. All of which leads to this delirious, giggling fun fact: ‘Monstrous’ has been quantified as at least an equal first on a reader’s all-time list more recently than ‘Snow Falling On Cedars’ has. You have to go back 127 reviews to find somebody calling ‘Snow’ the best they’ve ever read.
Below is the entire history of ‘Snow Falling On Cedars’ being at least somewhat rigidly quantified at the numerator end, in one way or another. I have yet to encounter a reader who knew how many books they had read. There are laughs to be had from this list at closer inspection, but anyhow here it is:
3/22/97 This book provided a feeling I’ve never had before while reading a book
4/10/97 I’ve never felt more like I was in a story, observing it from a special secret place
5/11/97 The best book I’ve read in years
5/13/97 Probably the most evocative story of the Northwest I have ever read
8/25/97 Definitely among my top reads for this year (just behind Wild Swans and Primary Colors)
9/12/97 If ever a novel deserved the Pulitzer, this is it
9/21/97 Best book I’ve read in the past twelve months
11/2/97 Desire to linger has never been more intense
5/19/98 my second favorite book of the semester
9/3/98 No book after Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought me so close to tears
10/1/98 I read a great deal and I can’t remember when I’ve read a book I enjoyed any more.
11/6/98 Easily the best book I have read in the last ten years, maybe even the last twenty.
11/30/98 By far this is the best book I have ever read
12/2/98 my personal highlight in 1998
1/28/99 One of the top ten books I have ever read; best non-fantasy book I have ever read
3/29/99 the first book I read that made me sad to think it was over
5/24/99 best book I had read since Stones From The River
8/24/99 easily my favorite read of the summer
9/12/99 most enjoyable, well written novel I have read in a long time
11/3/99 one of the best novels of the decade, right up there with Unconsoled, Remains Of The Day, The English Patient and The Joy Luck Club
11/12/99 the most amazing novel I’ve read; none has captured my attention and heart as this one
12/18/99 greatest contemporary novel I have ever read
1/7/2000 one of my three fav books; 1} Girl, Interuppted 2} Ella Enchanted
2/1/2000 This one definitely goes on my top 10 list
3/9/2000 I completed it faster than any other novel I had ever been exposed to
4/11/2000 The Best Book I’ve Ever Read
6/21/2000 the best summer reading title yet
9/13/2000 probably the best book I’ve ever read
12/16/2001 the most in-depth book I have ever read
2/19/2004 the only two other books that come to mind– books that combine genres so successfully are Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD and McRae’s BARK OF THE DOGWOOD
10/2/2004 perhaps the most appealing novel I have read
2/11/2006 This is the best book I have ever read
3/11/2008 never read a novel in which the setting becomes such a palpable character
Pathetic, isn’t it?
In contrast, this is what was said of my book on the day that ‘Monstrous’ died (maybe if I were immortalized by a Don McLean song…) as an entity written about:
8/6/2008 it’s in my top 3 favorite books
The dude did not preface by saying he was a serial killer, and knew of what he spoke. Instead, these words headline a review whose body confirms in summary the lengthy, well-balanced review of forensic mental health specialist Bryan Nelson of deviantcrimes.com, who read the book twice back-to-back or so he claimed. After Nelson posted, he corresponded with me that he was on his third go-round.
Unfortunately, Nelson and Half Nelson were essentially twins in their muted, hushed tones as well when they had kind words for my book, Half Nelson having spent fourteen words on understated approval and fifteen loudly warning people to stay the heck away, while Full Nelson had it loosely at three paragraphs ‘For’ to four paragraphs ‘Against’. This is how people talk about discovered buried treasure.
And don’t be thinking that I got lucky, that my dog self had its day, though I’ll grant it could have been a lot worse. Pre-Amazon, and Pre-Bookcrossing (a tainted period of giveaways to readers who were largely game for whatever, rather than who self-selected toward likely lovers of ‘Monstrous’) I made a few more legitimate sales, and from that group of…I would say no greater than four who shared their impressions online, I scored another hit of the sort that David Guterson just gets once a blue moon. Andy Cheek of England called my book “Quite frankly the biggest mindfuck” he had “ever read”.
Could it be there are hundreds of ways in which a book can be the biggest, and mindfuck is just one of many? At the very least, we are talking equal first, so that’s two out of no more than eight in my book’s whole lifetime of sales, consecutive 1-fer-4s let us say, and ‘Snow’ has never done this. The closest is a nine-review span bracketed by a “best” and a “perhaps best in twenty years”. ‘Snow Falling On Cedars’ is oh-fer-770 and ‘Monstrous’ is 1-fer-1.
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