In his prime, Edward Bloom was an extraordinary man. He could outrun anybody. He never missed a day of school. He saved lives and tamed giants. Animals loved him, people loved him, women loved him. He knew more jokes than any man alive. At least that’s what he told his son, William. But now Edward Bloom is dying, and William wants desperately to know the truth about his elusive father—this indefatigable teller of tall tales—before it’s too late. So, using the few facts he knows, William re-creates Edward’s life in a series of legends and myths, through which he begins to understand his father’s great feats, and his great failings. The result is hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous.
And if you shocked by the "movie was better" vote on that last post, surprise! Round 2 in "yep, movie was better". I LOVED the film adaptation and how magical Tim Burton made it, so I was all about getting into the novel (once I found the movie was based off a novel, that is) and seeing what magic & mysteries were cut from the film script. Imagine my surprise to see how short the novel is! But no biggie, I was still eager to jump in.
If you haven't been exposed to either the film or the novel, this is essentially the story of a go-getter kind of fella from Alabama (described in the novel as being in "a constant state of aspiration"), Edward Bloom, who is dying at the beginning of the novel. We are introduced to Edward's grown son, William, who has a bit of a strained relationship with his father but is trying to right the wrongs before Edward is gone. This story looks at Edward, the often absentee father who, when he was home, still seemed a little distanced from his loved ones. Where was his mind going all the time? Much of the novel is William looking back on his father's life from a son's perspective, trying to make sense of all the fantastical stories he grew up hearing and trying to sift out what the truth might have been, as to why Edward was almost never home with his family. Where was he? Why does he never like to have serious conversations, instead answering every question or request for information with a cheezy joke or another seemingly pointless tall tale? For awhile, the closest William seems to get to the truth is his father making a comment that jokes are great because who doesn't love a great joke, and who would want to focus on life's doubts and dissatisfactions. William really wants to know the truth about who his father really is before it's too late for answers, but fears he'll never get them from the man himself.
Now just because I say I liked the film better doesn't mean I didn't enjoy this book. I did! There was something to Wallace's writing style that I did find impressive. In parts, I actually saw some similarities to Homer's Odyssey, which I certainly wasn't expecting, but enjoyed the "oh hey!... I know this from somewhere" moments when I made the connection. I think in this case, I was just wanting or expecting more, always waiting for the moment I'd have the breath knocked out of me .. but it never really got there. It was just... good... but not as fantastic (or fantastical) as I had hoped. The parts that were meant to dip into fantasy realm were sometimes a little hard to visualize, leading me to believe that maybe this particular type of story was just best served visually (via "movie magic" special effects) to get the full effect.
The book is short and well-written, just didn't reach "mind blown" status for me. Still, it is a short novel and I would recommend reading it. I did like how it looks at the small smiles that can be found in imperfect or strained parent-grown child relationships, reminding me a lot of some of the things I struggled with with my own father. Good stuff. I would recommend trying it out for yourself. :-)