Bonnie Brody's Reviews > Spooner

Spooner by Pete Dexter
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's review
Mar 05, 12

it was ok
Read in June, 2009

I was very disappointed in this book by a writer that I admire very much. The author of Paris Trout (Contemporary American Fiction), Deadwood, Train and other fine books, has not held up to his greatness with 'Spooner'.

'Spooner' seems more like an outline, a collection of caricatures that do not connect over the whole. The novel is lengthy and was difficult to read mostly because it just did not grab me in any way. There is no character that stands out on his or her own or that seems real. I got to know no one in this book.

Ostensibly, the book is about Spooner and his step-father, a man named Calmer, and how Calmer tries to understand and salvage Spooner's life. The book has nothing to do with this except in a very tangential sense. Mostly, the book goes from one episode of someone's life to another without seque or any real meaningful connection. And the book goes on and on and on............. Usually the vignette is about someone Spooner meets at some point in his life, an accident he has or about one of his family members. But I finished this book and asked myself, "Who is Spooner?".

The book is filled with inconsistencies as well. Spooner comes from a family of geniuses and he can barely read or write. He ends up a newspaper writer. I had to ask myself when did he become literate. It's not mentioned in the novel. Spooner is not such a mess-up as the book cover implies. He's just the average guy without much incentive in life and does not have a good sense of the emotional expectations of others. Spooner is a good idea for a book as are several other characters but none are fleshed out or made real. In Dexter's other books, the characters are there, 'wham-bam in your face'. You know them whether you want to or not. In Spooner you can't get to know them no matter how hard you try.

Despite the book's many flaws, Dexter still has a very quick wit. He can see sex in just about any context and add a quip about it, and his descriptions are grand. He can see the absurd in most everything. At one point, he describes Spooner coming out of anesthesia in the recovery room and a tube being placed into his throat "gouging the sides as it went down, he thought, like picking your nose with a hangnail...". (p. 292)

The book is not inspiring or good. An author of Dexter's caliber could have turned Spooner into someone real, someone that the reader would care about and remember. That is not the case here.
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Edward That initially bothered me, too, "a collection of caricatures that do not connect over the whole." But as I thought more about it, I don't think Dexter was even interested in coherent connections. SPOONER was more like a collection of columns, and of course there's no need to explain how you get from one to the next. Loosely, Spooner is in all of them, a collection of "moments" in a man's life, and while I wouldn't want a steady diet of books like this, I could tolerate, even like, this one.

Bonnie Brody Perhaps this is what Dexter was aiming for, but I for one could not tolerate the book as it ended up. Bonnie

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