Ablutions

Patrick deWitt

First Sentence:    Discuss the regulars.

Tellingly, the subtitle for this novel is ‘Notes for a Novel’, and this is exactly what it reads like. After thoroughly enjoying The Sisters Brothers I thought I’d go back and read deWitt’s first novel, but really, they have very little in common. The writing is good here and, bravely, it is written in the second person but really, notes for a novel is all it appears to be. If I had read this book before The Sisters Brothers, chances are I’d be raving about the potential on display here, and the quality of the writing. But after seeing that potential realised in The Sisters Brothers, I can’t help but see what this novel could have been if the ‘notes’ on offer were developed just that little bit more. The unnamed narrator is a bartender in Hollywood and is surrounded by alcoholics, prostitutes, homeless people and drug addicts. When his wife leaves him, what little chance he had duly vanishes and it isn’t long before he takes things a little too far. This book is undoubtedly full of memorable anecdotes, and has plenty of fine writing, but I’d suggest reading deWitt’s other book to see how it’s really done.

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Last Sentence:    You do not speak for a long time after this.

Last Sentence explained:        I really like that final sentence. It says a lot when read out of context like that. By the end of the book, the narrator ends up stealing a large sum of money from the bar where he works and it all ends when he is renting a car, trying to get out of California. The man he is renting the car from clearly hates his job, and the sentence before the final sentence is:

‘Work will drive you crazy if you let it,’ you say.

That says it all really…

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