Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl
Reviewed By: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli is the author of "The Jerusalem Inception" and other novels. His website is: www.AzrieliBooks.com
“Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl” by Philip Gaber is described by the publisher as “psychological fiction,” but is in fact much more than that. The book is part stories, part existential philosophical observations, and part poetry. In a testament to the author’s ability, this very unique book delivers the most common quality sought by readers: It’s exciting!
The prose parts of the book are told in the disarming voice of a male character, combining an almost mundane personal reportage (i.e., daily routines, a sweet yet troubled love life scenes, and recollections of past experiences from early childhood to immature adulthood) with contemplative ponderings and meditations tossed in-between.
Take, for example, this scene, which captivatingly fuses dialogue and internal drama seamlessly, while dealing with a common male dilemma when love for a woman conflicts with one’s clinging to the habits of a bygone adolescence:
“If you think I’m so special, move out of your parents’ house, go back to school. Wear something other than camouflage shorts and Red Hot Chili Peppers tee shirts because this is a you problem that has now become an us problem.”
I said the only thing I could say at that point, which was, “Wow.” And then thought the only thing I could think at that point, which was, help.
“Life is not just about how you feel inside,” Jenny said. “It’s what you evoke.”
I could feel my eyelids getting heavy again and I wanted to close them and go to sleep, but I forced myself to stay awake.
“It’s a simple choice,” Jenny said, and she hung up.
I went into my bedroom, took two Vivarin, washed them down with a Mountain Dew, and began throwing out all my camouflage shorts and Red Hot Chili Peppers tee shirts.
It was the saddest day of my life.
The structure of “Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl” is not about chronology, plot, or a journey. The book alternates between prose chapters (some of which would make excellent short stories by themselves), poetry (with some pieces that might be seen as ‘long form’ haiku by some readers), and contemplative monologues that deal with the artist’s struggles, relationships, and other weighty issues (treated with humor and occasional derision). There’s even a chapter consisting of a verbatim transcript (presumably fictional) of a call to a radio talk show. (Here’s a tease: “Either you’re in trouble or you’re not in trouble, Don, which is it?” “I got a girl pregnant.” “Ah-hah.” “Two, actually.”)
With this book, his second (after “Between Eden and the Open Road,” 2012), Mr. Gaber demonstrates an unsettling ability to deliver vivid, universal stories, complete with a beginning, middle and end, within a chapter, a few pages, or even a few paragraphs. Or a single sentence. Take this, for example, a thought that has crossed (or should have crossed) many a man’s mind: “Maybe I never get the girl I want because I never became the man I was supposed to become.” Or this one, equally applicable for multitudes of men (and women): “Even though I was a born progressive human secularist, I converted to alcoholism in my late thirties.”
In summary, “Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl” by Philip Gaber is an incredibly unusual book that delivers short, hard punches at the reader—neither cruelly, nor lovingly, nor provocatively, but with witty irony, incisive cleverness and cutting humor that becomes addictive. Every chapter is a surprise or a shocker, either introspective, hilarious, or universally true in a way that will make the reader blush, cry, or laugh (or all three simultaneously). In short, this is a memorable book in the most positive sense of the word. Highly recommended!