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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Niagara Falls All Over Again

Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth Mccracken

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

November 6, 2006

I have to say, Elizabeth McCracken would be one of my favorite authors if she had more than two novels to her credit. Her debut novel "The Giant's House" blew me away and the sophomore effort "Niagara Falls All Over Again" was another great read that kept me turning the pages from start to finish. I am terribly disappointed there isn't anything else of hers to read except for a collection of short stories.

"Niagara Falls All Over Again" focuses on the comedy team of Carter and Sharp as narrated by Mike Sharp--whose actual first name is Mose--from their rise in Vaudeville during the Depression to their fallout in the television era of the early 50s. This features a lot of the stuff you'd expect about a Hollywood novel--drinking, wild parties, affairs--but the sleaze and excess is never there for shock value or just for the sake of being there, rather to illustrate the misery and coping of Carter (especially) and Sharp. While in the act Carter was the happy-go-lucky manchild and Sharp the stern taskmaster, in real life Sharp is the one who ends up with a happy life: wife, kids, steady employment while Carter goes through wives faster than someone with a cold goes through Kleenex and ends up in a trailer park twenty years after their act split. It may sound as though Sharp has everything hunky-dorey, but he does miss Rocky and this leaves a hole in his life no one else can really fill.

If there's anything to complain about with this book, it's the "breakneck pace" as one book review put it. For the most part it feels like we're always getting the summary and never immersed in the actual moment as it's happening. So it all feels like, "We went to a party and had some drinks. I talked to this person. I went home." (Only written much better than that.) This of course is necessary to summarize a whole life in 310 pages, but the result is that the novel and the characters outside Carter and Sharp feel a bit hollow.

And let's face it, I could have read another 310 pages of McCracken's writing. It's comic at times, touching at times, and loaded with snappy metaphors and similies a hack like me could never dream of conceiving. It's a truly smart, engaging, and insightful novel about the relationship between two people. This isn't quite as good as Chabon's "Kavalier and Clay" that similarly explores a partnership between entertainers beginning in the Depression, but it's very, very close.

I can only hope the author's next effort--should there be one--is as good as her first two.

That is all.

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