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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Appreciating Wally Lamb

Having recently finished both his short & sweet 2009 novel "Wishing and Hoping" and his sprawling 2008 bestseller "The Hour I First Believed", my appreciation for Wally Lamb's talents as an author and storyteller continues to deepen. Over just four books he's tackled an intriguing range of topics. Odd that neither of his earlier books ("She's Come Undone" & "I Know This Much Has True") has yet been made into a film. For anyone who read "She's Come Undone", I'd like to know who you would cast as Dolores, the unforgettable heroine; I'll save my idea on that until I hear from someone. Dolores is among the most sharply etched female characters I can recall ever being conjured by a male author; sort of an un-Lolita.

"I Know This Much..." and "The Hour...", are Lamb's more artistically ambitious books; each has a sweep that is epic and intimate in equal measure. The first concerns twin brothers and mental illness, the second a marriage unraveling, collateral damage in the aftermath of Columbine. I liked both a great deal; I think "The Hour..." will linger longer in my memory.

I laughed through much of "Wishing and Hoping", especially the final chapter ("Noel") describing a Christmas pageant gone awry. (I also found myself thinking of a great scene in the Ron Howard film "Parenthood" as I read that chapter). It's thrilling to watch an author effortlessly switch gears in back-to-back books. Lamb makes this transition - he moves from the horror of Columbine in "The Hour..." to the hilarity of the pageant in "Wishing and Hoping".  If you haven't yet, try Wally Lamb; I don't think you'll be disappointed.


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