Ed King

by David Guterson

(Knopf Doubleday, $16.95, 320 pages)

Who is this author?

David Guterson had a huge hit in 1994 with “Snow Falling on Cedars,” his novel about a murder trial and an interracial affair that was adapted as a film starring Ethan Hawke in 1999. He followed that with a short story collection, “The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind” in 1996, “Our Lady of the Forest, a tale of religion and visions and faith in 2003 and “The Other” in 2008, a novel about two friends who take divergent paths. Now comes “Ed King,” set like all Guterson’s books in the Pacific Northwest

What is this book about?

It’s about a philandering father, a vengeful unwed mother and an abandoned baby who grows up to be an Internet tycoon reminiscent of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. It’s also about the myth of Oedipus, that unlucky Greek fellow who murdered his father and unknowingly married his mother. No doubt you recall that one…Sophocles got a pretty good play out of it and it gave a name to the famous Freudian complex.

This version, which begins in Seattle in the 1960s, gives us a baby, fathered by an au pair and her employer, who is adopted by a rich family and eventually becomes known as the “King of Search” for his Google-like computer wizardry. But is being a billionaire enough to buy happiness when your life is following the path of an ancient curse?

Why you’ll like it:

Guterson is known for his scathing wit and deft use of irony. It takes plenty of nerve to use a classic myth as the frame for a contemporary novel, but many reviewers felt Guterson met the challenge well.

This just in:

The Literary Review in London just awarded Guterson its annual tongue-in-cheek (oops) Bad Sex in Fiction award for “Ed King.”  He graciously commented, “Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I’m not in the least bit surprised”. 

What others are saying:

“How would a modern man go about killing his father and marrying his mother, just like Sophocles’ Oedipus? Guterson’s vivid recreation . . . is a study in outsized avarice and arrogance. Exuberantly rambunctious, Guterson’s bold pondering of the Greek classic is a fiendishly tantalizing romp,” says Carol Haggas in a Booklist starred review.

“Even for those who are well versed in Sophocles, Ed King is filled with plenty of surprises and sly homage to the original (as well as a few other Greek myths), and half the fun here is reveling in the sheer cheekiness of the narrative. Ed King is not a new story, yet Guterson has managed to infuse this novel with feelings of freshness, relevance and even believability that are sure to delight 21st-century readers. A special pleasure will be experienced by those who can appreciate how the old elements have been modernized. Oedipus may not have been Guterson’s to begin with, but by the end, readers will have no doubts that Ed King is a creation entirely his own, ”says Stephanie Harrison for BookPage.

“The technological titans of Ed King, walled off in their estates and kingdoms, and privy to the best life that money can buy, strive and strain with little thought to where all their efforts might be headed. It forces the thought: what have all the technological achievements of Microsoft, Amazon, Apple wrought, when it comes to changing certain fundamental certainties of human nature? Ed believes the sky is the limit. Will [he] cheat death? Will he dodge the bullet of fate?” writes Mary Ann Gwinn in The Seattle Times.

When is it available?

You can borrow it now from the Hartford Public Library.

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