Fiction: The Fool’s Progress, by Edward Abbey

Re-read for Dad; new to me. Our May challenge book.

Total black comedy with incredibly (surprisingly) sad moments; you get to like the guy more than you ever though you could. The first chapter is just outright hilarious. Dad remembers hearing about Abbey at a reading once, picking that chapter, and apparently some women walked out. Personally, I feel you have to be able to enjoy well-written things (or even to apply this broader, well-done art in any genre) without imposing your filter. If you can never enjoy writing that doesn’t agree with your (for example) feminist viewpoints, you’re shutting out a huge portion of the world.

Abbey just reallys wrings out the in your face redneck stuff; takes a hard look at the mess a person can make of their life. He’s pretty hard on the guy for making dumb choices. But there’s always this underlying hopeful place–“maybe we’ll find a way to make it work” enthusiasm.

Dad has been going back and reading biographies of Abbey, trying to parse out which bits are autobioraphical and which aren’t–all the wild stories about Abbey and women stop the day he married his last wife. Both Abbey and the main character here are so involved with people: so much fun, so attractive, so adventurous, but (until the end) not a long-term guy.

Dad felt that on his second time reading it, some of it got a little tedious: got kinda tired of the trip, didn’t always enjoy the flashbacks–felt like they were always pulling you out of something you were enjoying (the current trip more engaging than the past memories).

A lot of individual scenes were so much fun. Love how he has all these horrifically failed relationships but also has friends pretty much everywhere he goes. Clearly this guy is bringing something to the table that makes keeping him around worthwhile.

For me, it’s reminisicent of Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater–the dark, dark humor of it, a voice you’re not going to meet a lot in literature, a part of America that doesn’t get chronicled a lot.

Verdict: both enjoyed it a LOT.

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