Repost: The Animal Hour, by Andrew Klavan

(I’m bummed tonight. I stopped for groceries, and not only has my usual store rearranged the sections again [for the sole purpose, I’m convinced, of trying to get us to look at stuff we’ve already decided we don’t want to buy], but Banquet TV Dinners appears to have discontinued their Yankee Pot Roast meal. The things that made the Yankee Pot Roast irreplaceable were not only that it tasted surprisingly good, but it was only 210 calories. Oh yeah, and it was cheap. I’ll never stay on my diet now, and it’ll be all Banquet’s fault.

(Another Klavan review, this one from June, 2006. It has the distinction of being the only book of his that I’ve panned. It’s a stinker.)

I’ve been gushing over the books of Andrew Klavan recently (found one I hadn’t read in the store tonight—hurrah!). However, I feel obligated to warn you about one of them.

I finished The Animal Hour the other day. It’s one of Klavan’s earlier books, and I get the impression it was a kind of an experiment.

In my opinion, the experiment didn’t succeed.

It starts out with a great hook. A young woman in New York City goes in to her job and starts to settle down at her desk, when another woman comes into her office and asks her what she’s doing there. The conversation becomes a confrontation, and soon a number of employees have gathered. It quickly becomes clear that no one there has ever seen her before.

That’s a terrific start. Unfortunately, at least to my taste, the rest of the book doesn’t live up to it.

The mechanics of a great thriller are all there. Suspense mounts, and mysteries abound.

The problem is with an element that’s usually Klavan’s strong suit—the characters. There were very few characters in this book who raised my sympathy much. Most of them were creepy in one or several ways.

Also the gore level was high.

Also Christianity didn’t come off looking very good.

I’d skip this one.

2 thoughts on “Repost: The Animal Hour, by Andrew Klavan”

  1. Lars,

    Your review of Andrew Klavan’s The Animal Hour reflects my every sentiment not only about this particular novel, which I’ve just finished, but its author (who’s penned some really good stuff, and whom I really appreciate).

    Not that I’m supposed to change the subject, but two of my favorite favorite fiction writers are, numero uno, Dostoyevski (particularly Crime and Punishment) and, trailing him (and several others), CS Lewis (particularly That Hideous Strength). I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t feel similarly. Now, granted, Dostoyevski was a great, great novelist, and is regarded as not only a writer of novels but of literature. That said, he was also counter-cultural in a way most of today’s “literary” novelists aren’t. And CS Lewis, while not regarded as being in the same class as Dostoyevski (as a writer of literature, that is), is regarded highly nonetheless for his many talents, and, like Dostoyevski, his work was–and remains– counter cultural. More “modern” counter-cultural writers like Walker Percy (Thanatos Syndrome) and Flannery O’Conner are no longer alive; whatever sort of guts it takes to actually write counter-culturally and then put it out there, Dostoyevski, Lewis, Percy, and O’Conner all had that quality in abundance. Recently, it seems to have become increasinly apparent (well, to me anyway) that perhaps the most gutsy, counter-cultural novelist today whose work is “out there” is a best-selling writer (and an apparently devout, pro-life Catholic) who publishes at least two novels every year. That alone would seem to make him a worthy topic for, say, First Things and such journals. Except for this: who would dare (have the guts to) write it? Why, my gosh, he’s not a critically acclaimed literary (or genre) writer!!! One thing Father Neuhaus wasn’t, was a snob; the clueless, condescending and transparently pompous page recently placed at the back of that magazine might as well be called “Reflections of a Snob (Placed At The Back Of This Once-Great Journal For Fellow Wanna-Be Snobs To Call ‘Magisterial’ And The Like)”, and pretty much reflects the tenor of what the magazine is becoming. A thoughtful, critical– and, ultimately, appreciative– four to six page reflection on this (counter cultural, intelligent, and gutsy) best-selling author, perhaps remarking on how his work addresses not only our wider Culture of Death but the work of those sympathetic to Truth, might be in order. Perhaps you could write it.

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I haven’t actually read any of Father Neuhaus’s works. As a Lutheran, I must admit most of us are still a little hurt by his defection.

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