Deborah Edwards's Reviews > Between the Bridge and the River

Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson
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Aug 02, 2009

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Read in August, 2009

I was given this book as a gift by someone who knows I am a fan of the comedian's late night talk show and stand-up comedy routines. In person, Ferguson is a master of walking that tightrope between lunacy and sly intelligence. I admire that. So admittedly, I went into this novel with (perhaps unrealistic) high hopes that his fiction-writing style would emulate his comedic style. That said, I probably should not have expected the book to be funny, which I did, and which it was not. Not at all. Nor should it be. My preconceived notions about its expected humor are not Ferguson's concern, and that's fine. Yes, the book is laden with absurdity and filled with clever, sardonic comments about human nature and the state of the world, but funny it is not. I laughed out loud, exactly once, on page 300, when a particular moment struck me as amusing. On the other hand, all that the book lacks in humor it fills in with bitterness. It is an angry book, cynical and sometimes vindictive, the absurdist descriptions often used as a blunt instrument against whichever sector of the populace Ferguson deems unworthy at the time. Does this mean I did not like the book? Actually, and surprisingly, even to me, no. I ended up liking the book, despite its many flaws, the way I am able to like many people despite their flaws (and I'm quite sure the same way many people like me despite my own). Granted, I was languishing in a limbo of frustration and disappointment fully a third of the way through the book. I nearly put it down and moved on, until a Goodreads acquaintance who had read the book encouraged me to stick with it, as it would "get better." And amazingly enough, it did get better. Quite a bit better. The concept underlying the initial bitterness began to take hold and color the remaining narrative. And it's a good concept, one that has as its philosophical core a belief that all humans should concentrate on helping others and avoid the errors of perceived infallibility. A very good concept indeed. And characters I previously despised suddenly became less despicable, less unworthy of my time and commitment. The storytelling began to take hold and become far more captivating. Magic infused the plotline and new characters bolstered the sudden momentum. By the time I had finished the book I was a little sad as I felt it had finally reached its stride. Ferguson needs to practice the craft of fiction writing a bit more, as he tells us far too much that he could be showing us. There is also the hint of pretention in much of his ranting, and a sense of "look what I know that you probably don't." It is a quality I despise in writers like Umberto Eco, but one I feel quite willing to overlook in Ferguson since the premise and underlying decency of the story excused many of its problems - and because I just plain like Ferguson so much. On the plus side, several of the characters' visions and unique stories were quite inventive and compelling. Scenes involving visions of Carl Jung and Fatty Arbuckle should not have worked, but did. And the diverse storylines really converged in a meaningful way as the story unfolded. So, a book I wanted to love and ended up hating for fully a third of the way redeemed itself and became a book I reservedly liked. That said, I am glad I finished it and even felt suprisingly uplifted by the material. And I look forward to Ferguson's next offering.
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Reading Progress

08/06 page 52
08/06 page 52
15.81% "A wee bit of a disappointment so far, as I love Ferguson as a comedian, but as a writer of fiction, not so much." 2 comments
08/09 page 196
59.57% "Definitely getting better. Now I am intrigued by the developments. There are still issues with the writing, but the concept is taking form."
01/15 marked as: read

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