Thanks to the always-evangelical folks over at Shelf Awareness, I am bumping Glen Duncan's novel The Last Werewolf to the top of my To-Be-Read pile. Actually, it will be one notch below the summit because I have vowed--publicly and privately--that I would read Siobhan Fallon's You Know When the Men Are Gone at the next available opening in my schedule. And I always stick to my vows. Take my 27-year marriage for instance.
Back to the werewolf. As I mentioned, the "Maximum Shelf" newsletter from the Shelf Awareness crew re-whetted my appetite for Duncan's book, which officially launches today. I've been reading a lot of short stories lately--much more than normal, which is about five times the average norm of most readers--and I've been itching to sink deep into a novel. I need a story which will envelop me, fold me into its depths, twine around me like a boa constrictor. From all I've read, The Last Werewolf will do that. I always hate to set the bar too high with a book before I begin, but right now, I feel like I need this aging, libidinous werewolf to take me away.
Here are just a few snippets from the Maximum Shelf Awareness issue....
From Bethanne Patrick's review:
One of the biggest advantages to having a 210-year-old main character is showing off that character's absorption of the societies in which he's lived through his narration--and that's why reading Jacob Marlowe never gets old: he literally doesn't, and Duncan has sustained a young man's view of history not only through the years that Marlowe lives, but past them, into his volatile present. It's an authorial feat that works and will give many readers a smart, sexy, satisfying summer read.
From the interview with Duncan:
How did you go about constructing an evolving personality for an almost-200-year-old being who, to the outer world, appears ageless and not out of the ordinary, but is in fact very, very different from you and me?
At the risk of sounding irascible: What do you mean, 'How did you go about constructing an evolving personality...'? That's what novelists do. You sit down with a character and imagine how he or she would respond to a given situation. The given situation here is (a) turning into a homicidal monster once a month and (b) having an expected lifespan of 400 years, but the imaginative process is exactly the same as it would be if the given situation happened to be a 50-year-old midwest housewife discovering her husband's having an affair with his secretary. You use your imagination. And at the further risk of opprobrium (and police investigation), I confess I don't think Marlowe is all that different from 'you and me.' If he was, we wouldn't sympathize with him or get his jokes. Granted, lycanthropy forces him to kill and eat people, but the point is, lycanthropy would force 'you and me' to do exactly the same. The whole novel depends on seeing ourselves in the monster and the monster in ourselves.
Knopf editor-at-large Marty Asher also chimes in on the novel's appeal:
The first thing that drew me to it was the quality of the writing. We publish a number of important literary writers at Knopf--Kazuo Ishiguro, Julian Barnes, Graham Swift and many others. Glen Duncan's prose is at that level. Secondarily was the element of surprise: the author convincingly and often sympathetically got inside the head of this creature, and he plays with the readers' emotions--you feel for him because he is the last of his species and is contemplating suicide. One is constantly surprised and startled.
There's so much more at the Shelf Awareness website, you owe it to yourself to go check out the entire package. And, by the way, if you're not already a subscriber to Shelf Awareness, you're missing out on one of the best sources of book news, reviews and interviews.
Now if you'll excuse me, the wolf is at the door...