More Than Just Talk

15 Mar

This week I read a novel by Craig Fergoson. No fahreals, like late night talk show host Craig Ferguson. I know! I was surprised too.

Now, I don’t watch the Late Late Show Craig Ferguson–for one, it’s on mad late–but I do follow him on Twitter and in these postmodern times, I think that counts. In any case, his particular fame (televised) is what made me so intrigued when I came across his book in the store (also I am weak and easily persuaded by celebrity.) Luckily for us all, the book has proven–like chocolate, cough drops and Star magazine–a good impulsive buy. Between the Bridge and the River is a pretty sweet novel.

To clarify – it’s not a sweet novel. I mean, not like “Aw, so sweet.” It’s actually pretty dark, NC-17 even, with the kind of choice descriptions that make you conscious of whether fellow commuters are reading over your shoulder. One gets the sense Ferguson, whose show is on CBS–the network of the elderly–saved up all the words he can’t say, topics he can’t broach and, well, nasty shit he would never dream of bringing up on television, and put it all into one book. Brutal crimes. Perverted sex stuff. Take that, elderly.But I’m simplifying. Between the Bridge and the Water is a lot more than an assemblage of perverse humor. The novel follows an ensemble cast of interlocking characters–some whose relationships prove important, others coincidental (think Crash)–but focuses on two stories: that of brothers Leon and Saul, and that of estranged friends Fraser and George. Both stories are journeys of sorts–Leon and Saul are veritable orphans who run away to become famous, Fraser is publicly disgraced and flees to America, George is diagnosed with cancer and leaves for Paris. Along the way they run into a collective series of situations or semi-dreams that manage to cover everything from religion to Hollywood to death to philosophy. And always with (generally dark) humor.

There’s certainly a bit of Craig Ferguson in the book–it opens in Scotland, for one. And the criticisms levied against the entertainment industry can’t help but feel slightly personal (Jesus, what must Hollywood seem like compared to Scotland?) But in general, it’s almost as though Ferguson took all the observations he might otherwise (or perhaps simultaneously) use as fodder for ¬†vanilla nightly monologues, and instead interwove them as acerbic comic relief in a story of, I guess morality, or love, or something along those lines. Something deep.

THE VERDICT:

Between the Bridge and the River is engrossing, which isn’t what surprised me — plenty of comedians translate to the page; I wouldn’t have even been shocked to discover a sort of Scottish David Sedaris.

What did surprise me was the way this book was engrossing; I was expecting to compare it to Jon Stewart or Bill Maher; it’s actually more Chuck Pahlaniuk. Or better yet, Etgar Keret, the Israeli author whose book of short stories I read a few weeks back. In fact, I feel he and Craig Ferguson should get drinks together; they’d have a lot to discuss.

If this book were even halfway good, I’d say read it just for the novelty of Craig Ferguson having written a novel. Fortunately, I have the pleasure of saying you should read it regardless, because it’s more than halfway good. It’s like almost a whole..way good.

THE FACTS:
———————————-
TITLE: Between the Bridge and the River
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AUTHOR: Craig Ferguson
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PAGES: 329 (in paperback)
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ALSO WROTE: American on Purpose, I’ll Go T’foot of Our Stage
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SORTA LIKE: Sellevision meets The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God
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FIRST LINE: “Cloven-hoofed creatures passed this way.”

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