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The Obituary Writer

Shreve, Porter

ISBN 10: 0395981328 / ISBN 13: 9780395981320
Published by Mariner Books, 2000
Used Condition: Fine Soft cover
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About this Item

0395981328 Cover blurbs by Tim O'Brien, Charles Baxter, & Elizabeth Strout. Paperback Original. Bookseller Inventory # 006348

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Obituary Writer

Publisher: Mariner Books

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Issued without a dust Jacket

Edition: First Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

Gordie Hatch is twenty-two, charmingly naive, and certain that his first job as a writer for the ST LOUIS INDEPENDENT'S obituary page will be a stepping stone to a crackerjack career in journalism. The year is 1989, and Gordie watches helplessly while dramatic events -- the very events that could be his lucky break -- unfold in the world around him. But nothing can prepare him for the call he gets from Alicia Whiting, a young widow with an accent he can't quite place. When Gordie agrees to meet Alicia, against his better judgment, his journalistic curiosity quickly turns into an obsessive search for the outrageous truth behind the Whiting family. Shot through with affectionate humor and surprising twists and turns, THE OBITUARY WRITER introduces an author of enormous talent and heart. Porter Shreve brings a deft touch to the moments that mark a young person's entrance into the world, and a sharp eye to the ways in which the lead story can be wonderfully, seductively misleading.

Review:

In his delicate and hilarious first novel, Porter Shreve paints a fast-moving tale about the grungy, romantic allure of newspaper work and the muddled conspiracy of nature and nurture in a young man's maturation. The Obituary Writer's narrator, Gordie Hatch, has papers in his blood: his late father was a crackerjack reporter, his mother a journalism-school secretary. His environment reeks of his avocation, too, from the bundled newspapers in his garage to his comforter, which bears old headlines like TITANIC SINKS, SACCO AND VANZETTI GUILTY, and LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPED. By age 8, Gordie is fully ready to grab the newspaperman's baton, or, more bluntly, to get a paper route. ("I grew up with a heightened sense of my own importance, which my mother encouraged," he says. Not least because she seems to have delivered far more papers than he.) In 1989, when he moves straight from J School into an entry-level position at the hallowed St. Louis Independent, Gordie experiences an eternal, embryonic sense of belonging within its perfectly stereotypical nerve center, one that might have housed his father.

Sometimes I'd swear I could sense him looking out through my eyes, a young reporter waiting for the flare in the sky that points to the great discovery. I'd stop at the rackety wire machines under the mural of Remington's Pony Express to scroll through the overnight news, then pick up a late edition from the stacks before taking the long, slow route to my desk.
But Gordie knows he can't afford to move slowly. His beat, the obituary desk, is either a stepping stone for the gifted or a place to park damaged has-beens. When he makes three crucial judgment errors in succession, he is suddenly ensnared by a Southern femme fatale--who lures him into an exquisitely drawn world of highly un-newsworthy bank clerks, dog shows, and bumbling small-town artistes. A far cry from the collapse of European communism, which his luckier colleagues get to cover. Though the final third of The Obituary Writer veers into formulaic suspense-novel territory at times, Gordie always remains engagingly self-aware and the novel's denouement is well worth a bit of tough sledding. Will our hero realign himself with his destined path? How strong is fate, exactly? We cannot say, Gentle Reader. You must uncork this fine, funny novel for yourself. --Jean Lenihan

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