Review: The Obituary, by Gail Scott

>>Published: October 2010

>>Finally got around to it: November 2010

I’ve been struggling to find an angle for Gail Scott’s The Obituary, but in truth I am conflicted. On one hand, I have read the book and attempted to analyze it to the best of my abilities, but on the other hand, I feel confident in saying that I am clearly not the audience for this title.

I wish I were. God knows I found the descriptions I’ve read of the book to be absolutely enticing, but in no way indicative of my experience with it. What is billed as an exploration of the ideas of the ghosts that surround us, and who is speaking for us, to us and through us when history weaves its way through the long life of a home, is I found… impenetrable.

The book is a novel, but written through a carefully constructed style of poetic prose that, to be frank, felt too forced on the page to ever maintain a natural rhythm. Each paragraph—each line was a trial, not to understand what was being said, but how it was being said and, more importantly, why it was being said in such a manner. In that sense, I feel the attempt failed to capture any of the spirit or sense of voice it sought to explore.

I respect what Gail Scott attempted to do with The Obituary, but in the end I remain torn as to whether or not I am the audience for the book, or whether the book simply fails to succeed as a result of its very forced and deliberate stylistic choices.


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