08
Oct
18

But what of Barry the swim instructor? Does he get a happy ending? CBR10 Review 37.

UnknownA few years ago (I don’t know…maybe 2007?), back when I was addicted to watching Craig Ferguson’s Late Night show, he had an interesting episode in which he sat and talked to his friend Stephen Fry. No monologue, no questions on cards, no skits, no dancing horse. Just a conversation between old friends.

It was fascinating. They talked about all sorts of stuff, but what I remember most was their discussion about writing fiction. Fry had several books, their good friend Hugh Laurie had just written a mystery, and Ferguson’s Between the Bridge and the River had just been released.

And so I began a quest. I read Fry’s The Stars’ Tennis Balls (an amazing retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo), Laurie’s The Gunseller, and Ferguson’s book all in a matter of weeks. I loved Fry’s easy storytelling ability. I appreciated Laurie’s sense of humor. And I didn’t quite get Ferguson’s book, but I saw that he had potential, and gave him the benefit of the doubt because I loved him so much.

Fast forward to this year, and our #cbr10bingo center square.

This time, I didn’t love (or really even like) Between the Bridge and the River. I found a lot of what Ferguson had to say somewhat off putting, and I mostly found the characters annoying and horrible.

According to Wikipedia:

The novel has been characterized as a satire of religion and the entertainment industry. Ferguson has hinted in various interviews that there is a fair amount of autobiography in the story.

Ferguson has attributed the inspiration for the novel’s title to a conversation with a Jesuit priest about whether all those who commit suicide go to hell. According to Ferguson, the priest said that while suicide was a mortal sin, if someone were to jump from a bridge and genuinely repented of their action before they hit the river they would be forgiven. Ferguson interpreted this as there always being one last chance of redemption, which is the core of the adventures in the novel.

Ferguson’s great grandfather, Adam McLachlan, appears as a supporting character.

I think Ferguson is a very intelligent guy, and I wish that this book had worked the way that he wanted it to. I did enjoy the skewering of Hollywood and his obvious distaste for everyone involved in show business. But mostly, my hatred and disgust for many of the characters — PARTICULARLY SAUL — overwhelmed the little bits of fun that I found in the story. Saul was disgusting and awful in every way.

The one question I have about the story that went unanswered is this: Does George’s ex-wife end up with Barry the swim instructor? I hope so.

I listened to Craig narrate this book himself, as I thought it would make me like it more than I remembered. It didn’t. I would have been much better off with a reread of American on Purpose.


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