Spooner, by Pete Dexter
I don’t often use the word “rollicking” to describe a book book I’ve just read, but that’s one of the first adjectives that come to mind for Spooner. Others include hilarious, tragic, gory, and tender. And from the look of things, somewhat biographical.
Dexter writes about Spooner from his birth to his late middle age, and the one constant in his life: his stepfather, Calmer Ottosson. The two men couldn’t be more different: Spooner is compulsively criminal from the time he’s a small boy; Calmer always tries to do the right thing, often with disastrous results. But his constancy to his stepson, even though he’s aware of his many petty crimes, is often the only good thing in Spooner’s life.
This book has comic moments to burn, and many of them occur in the middle of an violent or tragic event. And there are plenty of those in this book. I have a low tolerance for descriptions of bloody fights, but Dexter’s knack for finding a laugh in the middle of the drubbing kept me reading. The book’s ending is the best example of tragicomedy that I can remember reading. The memory of this book will stay with me for a long time.
author photo: Casey Dexter-Heske