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Going to See the Elephant

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3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  272 ratings  ·  72 reviews
On a windy September day, twenty-five-year-old Slater Brown stands in the back of a bicycle taxi hurtling the wrong way down the busiest street in San Francisco. Slater has come to “see the elephant,” to stake his claim to fame and become the greatest writer ever. But this city of gleaming water and infinite magic has other plans in this astounding first novel—at once a lo...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published December 30th 2008 by Delacorte Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Colleen
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but it was a delight from start to finish. Slater Brown is an unlikely hero, a writer convinced he could be the world's best writer if only he could get the right works on the page in the right order. He considers himself well-read, though his efforts are limited to the first sentences of great books from which he extrapolates the quality of the rest of the unread work. Despite his many eccentricities, Slater Brown's love for San Francisco, for the rh...more
Michael Holland
I had to read this for a graduate class, and half way through I was confused. The plot is a bit slow, even though it is an easy read. There's only one interesting character in the book, and that character is the love interest. Her role becomes predictable towards the end due to plot twist. Ironic for a novel to be based in San Francisco, where the city happens to take on the role of a character itself, that you so zero gay people. The novelist even wrote the novel based on his time living in San...more
steven
A good coming-of-age novel of someone who got a lucky break.

It's effectively a magic talisman (not really, but go with me here). It allows our hero to land a job as a reporter and get great scoops, but as a result, he never really learns how to find the scoops himself. In any other story, the talisman would break, or someone would find out, or he'd learn that he did it all on his own - but none of that is true in this tale. Our hero may surprise you.

I say "hero" not because he is particularly he...more
Bob H
This is an enjoyable, bouncy ride through a San Francisco that evokes the City as it always has been, vivid, eccentric, lively from its Gold Rush days, rather than a Tales of the City contemporary satire. It's the story of young Slater Brown, who lands in San Francisco a penniless, aspiring writer and ends up on a loopy, eccentric paper, the Trumpet, which itself is the latest in an old, raucous school of San Francisco journalism going back to the days of Samuel Clemens, and still very much aliv...more
Kevin
Funny, sweat, a love letter to San Francisco. The best thing written about this city since "Tales of the City."
Susanburton
Slater Brown with a trunk of classic novels on hand, goes to San Francisco to become a great writer because he believes in himself. He hunkers down at a local bar and fills yellow notebooks with words of self-help. His goal: "to be a writer people would remember." He studies the great authors and is sure he can become one. But.......along the way he takes some shortcuts. As he is struggling to find employment and down to his last quarter, he is riding the bus home and through a transistor radio...more
Kelly
I can assure you, there is nothing better than coming upon a book, after so many tried and faulty reads, that actually is an honest one. Going to See the Elephant is an ingenious work of art, a colorful innocent tapestry of The City and what can happen if you listen to your intuition inside of it. Fishburne's Slater Brown is a wickedly funny character that wound me around his little finger so neatly, I couldn't help loving the little bugger.

Slater's journey began when he emerged from behind hi...more
Sarah Anderson
I do love a novel chock-full of good quirkiness. And Going To See The Elephant delivers - sometimes, in excess. It took me a while to actually finish this book, because until Callio, the champion female chess player, becomes a more featured part of the story, I didn't care as much about Slater Brown, our atypical hero of the action. He's fun, harmless, and affects a lot of quirks, but compared to the Mayor or the other newspaper reporters, or even the landlady, his quirks are forced. I understa...more
Corry L.
I picked this up in an airport bookstore because I was wooed by the humor and fun style of the narrative. That's definitely this book's greatest strength. At times I laughed out loud at the clever descriptions and observations. The plot was mostly a coming-of-age tale with an enjoyable, quirky "magic technology" element. Where the book lost me was the attempt to weave in the POV of the genius scientist who's the smartest guy in the world and wow look at all the amazing things he develops. I mean...more
Edwin Arnaudin
"Going to See the Elephant" feels like Rodes Fishburne read Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49," found it quirky but too weird, and wrote a more accessible translation. The quirkiness remains (it is the guiding strength of Fishburne's first novel) and because the story is less rooted in LSD, it comes off as far more whimsical yet simplistic. For example, "Elephant" protagonist Slater Brown writes for The Daily Trumpet, certainly a reference to the Trystero muted post horn from "Lot 49," but...more
Cindy
Rodes Fishburne's novel Going To See The Elephant is part comedy, part love story and part fable, all set in present-day(ish) San Francisco. Our hero, Slater Brown, arrives in the big city with a few dollars in his pocket, a steamer trunk full of books by the greats and an ambition to become a great writer himself. We know nothing of Slater before he comes to San Francisco and the reader wonders what it was, exactly, that led him to choose the City By the Bay as his destination. On a personal no...more
Marieke
Sep 07, 2010 Marieke rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marieke by: KevinfromCanada
Shelves: read-in-2010
A silly, silly waste of time. I was bored enough to consider not finishing it. I don't think it would have made much of a difference if I hadn't.

Slater Brown goes to San Francisco to seek his fortune as a writer; ends up writing for a newspaper; meets a girl; discovers himself along the way. Oh yeah, and there are tornadoes. I discovered that I didn't much care.

A few notable images caught me -- the grime-encrusted Trumpet (the newspaper) building with its clock that stopped in the earthquake of...more
Aj
Going To See The Elephant by Rodes Fishburne is a pleasant and readable first novel with colorful characters and interesting ideas. However, it lacks depth and a consistent tone that would have made it a truly great book.

Going To See The Elephant follows Slater Brown, a budding writer who has traveled to San Francisco to launch his career. He winds up writing for a long-standing but third-rate newspaper, gaining scoops through a unique and strange method.

Brown becomes a local celebrity, incurrin...more
Mike Van Campen
While it is by no means the work of genius some of the blurbs claim it to be, Going to See the Elephant is a thoroughly enjoyable novel steeped in joyful silliness, which--as it turns out--is a good thing. Slater Brown arrives in San Francisco to establish himself as the great writer that he knows he is. With very little money and down on his luck, Slater takes a job at The Morning Trumpet, a newspaper that is equally down on its luck. Soon, Slater and the Morning Trumpet become the toast of the...more
Alea
Going To See The Elephant is a hilarious, quirky, and very full of great little details. It felt to me that the story was set in an alternate universe San Fransisco. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what time period it takes place in and I loved it for that. It's truly original.

The characters in this book are priceless. A sleek young reporter that somehow always has the biggest scoop, the crazy over-eating Mayor, the genius of everything that decides he wants to produce his own weather,...more
Cameron
There was so much going on with this book, it is hard to even know where to begin. Let's start with the characters: Slater Brown is a writer newly arrived in Seattle with a burning desire to be remembered, not just read. His character is quirky and idealistic with not a lot of realism built in. That being said, it was what I liked the most about Slater. It was easy to want him to find the success he wished for. Tucker Oswell is the corrupt and sleazy mayor who eats as if there is no tomorrow and...more
Kerry
An aspiring writer, cable cars, a recluse genius, newspaper scoops, a ravishing chess player with a protective father and a mayor with an insatiable appetite all contribute to the tale of Going to See the Elephant with San Francisco as its backdrop. I thought this book had a lot of potential and I did enjoy the main character's narrative through most of the book and particularly liked the character of his landlady.

Unfortunately, I think that the numerous plot lines failed to capture me and swee...more
May-Ling
fishburne does an excellent job with this book and i could totally see this on the big screen - i think it would translate well. it took me a bit to warm up to the main character, but following his senses and notes about the city of san francisco was a total delight. particularly being familiar with the place and discovering SF myself years ago, you can appreciate his point of view.

aside from the main character, his girlfriend, the chess player phenomenon and milo the incredible genius grew on...more
Sharon
Fans of absurdist fiction will find much to admire in "Going to See The Elephant."

Aspiring writer Slater Brown comes to San Francisco with a large number of books he's never read, and aspirations of becoming famous. Shortly after spending his last 50 cents, he is hired as a reporter for the Morning Trumpet, a newspaper that is doing so poorly that it is published thrice a week on paper so thin that you can see through it. Unfortunately for Brown, he has no contacts from whom he can obtain stori...more
Amy
Another book I didn't care much for, and yet tried to write a tactful review for in Library Journal:
Verdict: One’s appreciation of this debut novel will depend entirely on a tolerance for a story that could be described as zany, irrepressible, and whimsical. Best suited for larger fiction collections.

Background: To a fictionalized San Francisco, resplendent with daily newspapers, none of which is named the Chronicle, wide-eyed innocent Slater Brown arrives with a trunkful of books and the absolu
...more
Susan
I won this book in a pre-release give away. I was excited to get it, read it, and review it. The book did have a VERY interesting storyline and I like that the author seemed to be writing about those periods in your life that seem to be a pivot point from where your life moves off in a new direction. Those opportunities that seem to open up for you and close again, never to be opened again. My only issue with the book (the reason for three stars) is that I didn't immediately identify with the ma...more
Sarah
Merry Christmas to me, what a sweet and graceful story this was. So much of it reminded me of the voice of Armistead Maupin (which makes sense since he was serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle), but there was a note of magical realism about the whole thing, too--a magical realism that discarded a lot of technology that a writer might have to deal with in the real San Francisco. After so many apartment fires in the City recently it was hard to get closer to the ending, but I could understand...more
korey
This gets 3 1/2 stars. It was slow getting into the book, not sure where the author was going. Seemed a bit overindulgent, but then 1/3 of the way through it kicked in and I really started to enjoy it. It's a bit quirky, but fun with really interesting/kooky characters. I just wish the author (who lives in SF) had done a bit more research on the City. He has the main character, Slater Brown walking one minute in Pac Heights and then another minute in the Mission. Don't think so. And, he referenc...more
Rita-Marie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Natacha P
I wanted to read about a writer who moves to San Francisco so that he can be true to his soul and follow his true calling. Too bad it takes quite a bit of time for him to actually get on that path.

It had its funny moments and creative aspects, but I am absolutely confused as to why the author assigned a certain name for some characters. Indeed, having Turkish characters with ‘de Quincy’ as the last name seems very incongruous to me. At the very least some character development could've easily s...more
Dana
From the moment I opened this book, the characters jumped to life for me. Fishburne’s main character Slater Brown is the likeable newspaper writer, who has a unique way of discovering stories. The one going story of Slater Brown and his writing along with his love interest keep the pages turning for me. The one character I wish there was more interaction and development of was Milo Magnet, who I pictures as a modern Einstein. Overall, Fishburne created a novel that invites the reader in to get l...more
Rachel
I'm always cautious when reading a book about a writer, but this was one of the better ones. Of course, many of the parts I found amusing and ironic will be missed by any one who hasn't worked extensively with young writers and their many misconceptions. The cyclical element at the end of the book was a nice touch, and I liked that while we were given a window into Slater's life after the main story arc Fishburne didn't spell anything our for us or feel the need to hit us over the head. It was a...more
Aaron
I loved this book, even more than the book the proceeded it (the fantastic and better-than-the-movie No County For Old Men). I will admit that after the first several chapters, I was convinced that the rest of the book would be pedantic wanna-be literature, but I was wrong. It skewers would-be literature while at the same time embracing "real" literature, and much of this book is brilliantly written. The characters are fascinating, the locale (San Francisco) is itself one of the main characters,...more
Larry
I don't recall anything about this so I don't know what to say.
Tricia
I enjoyed this and it was a super fast read. There were some geographical mistakes that he made, but if you aren't picky about that it won't bother you too much (I used to take the 9 bus to work everyday and at no point does it go down Van Ness, just an example of what I mean). Since alot of the locations he refers to are fictional anyway, I guess it doesnt really matter. Anyway, Slater Brown is a really likeable character and the book made my morning commute seem faster, so I am giving it 3 sta...more
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Rodes Fishburne is a writer living in San Francisco.

His first novel is “Going to See the Elephant.”

His essays and articles have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and Forbes ASAP, where he was the editor of the “Big Issue,” an annual magazine of literary essays from leading writers and thinkers including: Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, Muhammad Ali...more
More about Rodes Fishburne...

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“He was on the bench for 36 years and had the girth to show it.” 1 likes
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