Matt's Reviews > The Book of Ralph

The Book of Ralph by John McNally
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's review
Aug 28, 08

liked it
Read in August, 2008

Lent to me by a student, this book sat on the floor (the floor, even!) of my office for almost two years while I puttered around and read other things. And then, finally, I decided I'd read it, and it's pretty good-- it's another coming-of-age story, this time shorter on the music than I usually go for, but invested with some other goodness. Mostly, the book's successes are drawn from the kind of crisp observations that are maybe more often funny than illuminating, but only by a little bit. There are lots of these small really satisfying moments, like the pop when the bubble pops, before it hits your face.

The shape overall and chapter by chapter (it's practically a book of stories with the same characters) and overall kind of lacks shape and definition. It's the second "literate" book I've read lately that makes the case that something is "real" because it doesn't cohere, and that all the clues were not pointing toward an overarching narrative, but instead just reveal our yearning for the same. It's weird, this sort of mainstreaming-of-suspicion of narrative, in books that otherwise seem pretty orthodox, and it makes for a weirdly unsatisfying read, in the end-- I mean, these ARE fictions, whatever their characters might feel about the reality of their lives from their vantage point.

But this is all a long way around to say I thought this was often good, but overall it felt longer than it was in pure page# terms, because I'm not sure it was cumulative, just a vehicle for the jokes and spit-takes.

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