Friday, June 26, 2009

Six-Hundred Hours of a Life

Six-Hundred Hours of a Life
by Craig Lancaster

(CreateSpace / 1-441-45893-X / 978-1-441-45893-3 / February 2009 / 260 pages / $14.95 / Kindle $9.99)

Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM

Most books are like seashells, lovely to look at but there are so many seashells that they are easily forgotten. Only a few are like gold. Six-Hundred Hours of a Life is one of those few.

Edward Stanton, the main character in this novel, is thirty-nine and a virgin. He lives alone in a small house in Billings, Montana. His life is ‘very’ routine, and he likes it that way.

I regret one thing after reading Six-Hundred Hours of a Life. Why did I give so many other books five stars on when this book was the only one that really deserves them? Maybe it was because I found those other books entertaining. Sad! Now I know that five stars should be reserved for books that go beyond entertaining.

In my defense, I can say that over the decades, I have read thousands of books and less than a handful stick around. Like so many things in this packaged, plastic world, most books are disposable even to our memories. However, a few novels achieve a depth of intimacy that are priceless. The last time I read a book like that was in the early 1980s. That was This House of Sky by Ivan Doig. That book was nominated for the National Book Award.

Now, I want to digress to make a point. I am going to complain about a book that did not invite me in. This book was from a Nobel Prize winning author. In fact, that book evicted me. While I was working toward an MFA in the 1980s, I ‘had’ to read and do an oral examination on Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. That book numbed my mind. I had to struggle to stay awake. I had to read passages repeatedly and still couldn’t stay focused. When Faulkner wrote that book, he entered the mind of Benjy, a mentally retarded man with the maturity of a five-year-old. Benjy lived in the past, the present and the future at the same time. His thoughts were an endless run-on sentence.

On the other hand, with Six-Hundred Hours of a Life, I had no problem joining Edward in his disturbed world. In fact, I did not want to leave. I gladly went. At times, I found myself laughing and was occasionally misty eyed. I was captivated.

Edward Stanton is mentally challenged similar to but different from Faulkner’s Benjy. Edward has a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder along with Asperger’s Syndrome. To maintain a semblance of control, Edward takes 80 mg of fluexitine (Prozac) daily. It doesn’t help that his father, Ted Stanton, abuses Edward physically and mentally making Edward’s slight grasp on sanity that much more difficult to hold onto. To cope, Edward has weekly sessions with Dr. Buckley, who helps him develop skills to stay in control of his well-ordered life. However, Edward is going to be challenged. He is about to meet a troubled neighbor with a young son, who needs a friend.

Edward’s world is regulated by repetition where he watches Dragnet daily and loves every episode. ‘It was one of my favorites’ he often says. When he drives to the market, he prefers right turns to left turns because right turns are safer. When he wakes up, the first thing he does is to record the time and temperature and the weather. He loves the Dallas Cowboys. Some of his favorite memories are going to games with his father. He eats the same frozen pizzas and loves spaghetti made a certain way. Edward's life is like a broken record but a fascinating one. Strange, when I finished reading, I thought Edward was the only sane person on this earth, and I identified with him.

If I cannot give Six-Hundred Hours of a Life the six stars it deserves when I post a review on, I shall do it here. I offered to give Six-Hundred Hours of a Life to someone else, so he could also enjoy it. I have decided not to. Instead, I’m going to put it on my bookshelf next to This House of Sky by Ivan Doig. Buy your own copy.

Editor's Note: This book has been re-released as 600 Hours of Edward.

See Also: Craig Lancaster's Website
Craig Lancaster's Blog
Craig Lancaster's Authors Den Page
Re-release title at Amazon: 600 Hours of Edward


D. L. Keur said...

Nice review. Very. Impressively nice review. I abhor wordy reviews that say nothing. You made my reading of the review a pleasure and convinced me to try the book. I'm even going to feature it on The
Deepening. Nice job. Thanks for not just blathering on, but actually delivering what was for me a reason of reading.

Floyd M. Orr said...

Thank you for your kind comment. That is exactly what we strive to do here at PODBRAM, write real reviews for real readers.