Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Ideal, Genuine Man

My hardcover copy of The Ideal, Genuine Man by Don Robertson was published in 1987 by Stephen King's Philtrum Press and includes a forward by King. It is 276 pages. This is a hard novel to read. It is very different form The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread. No one is likable in it. It is disgusting and repulsive in many places. It's hopeless and helpless and full of pain. I actually forced myself to continue reading it. Suddenly, the ending made it quite clear why King praised it so highly, why he considers it a great novel. I can't recommend it, but if you do read it, you will never forget it. I'm not rating this one and plan to send it off to Think Pink Dana for her to read. Haunting novel...

Synopsis from cover:
"Set in Houston - a Houston which in Robertson's hands becomes a simmering nightmare landscape - it is the story of Herman Marshall, a retired truckdriver whose wife is dying of cancer and who is himself trying to come to grips with the fact of his own old age in a society where the elderly are discarded like empty beer-cans.

With the deep compassion and utter refusal to turn away from the ugly underside of American life - hallmarks of his writing from his first novel - Robertson shows us places we have never been in the flossy glossy worlds of Dallas.... Here are tired, desperate men growing old in roadhouses, drinking beer in the afternoon and watching soap operas on TVs with bad color; here are lonely women who live with pain and are sometimes surprised by love. Here also is the sudden and irrational violence that has become a grotesque sort of American trademark.

Most of all, here is Herman Marshall, simmering both in the heat of Houston and the heat of anger produced by his memories of better times...and broken promises. when that anger finally bursts into flames, The Ideal, Genuine Man becomes a harrowing experience no reader will ever forget...although many may wish they could. Old, forgotten, unimportant, ordinary...and unforgettably unique, Herman Marshall is one of the most unusual and compelling characters in modern American fiction...."

"Herman Marshall squinted at the rain. He told himself he needed to get clean." opening sentences

"He was seventyfour, and he had made his living driving a truck, and he was not used to weeping." pg. 2

"And that had been forever ago. A forever of days> A forever of betrayals, beer, trucks, waitresses, prayer meetings, rodeos, guitars, bleats, guilts, death." pg. 5

"I'm too old to be mad. An listen here... in order to be mad, a man's got to be able to do somethin bout it, give somebody a whippin or whatever...and me, I'm too old to cut the mustard, you expect you can follow at?" pg. 6

"But the seventeen years of Billy had sort of wrung out Herman Marshall and Edna. Billy and his pain. Billy and his bedsores and his spine. Billy Marshall. You look at him and you said to yourself: it's like he's a human comma." pg. 18

"And he was a man, more or less. Or at least he was as much of a man as he ever would be. Which meant he came to understand the simple snaggled truth that hardly anything worked out as it should." pg. 97

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