4/28/15

Review of The View North from Liberal Cemetery by Joel Wapnick

The View North from Liberal Cemetery

Joel Wapnick

After reading “The View North from Liberal Cemetery” I was moved to question whether there was such
a genre as elderly fiction. If there was Joel Wapnick’s novel would rank highly. This novel is laugh-out-
loud funny literary fiction that maintains a serious edge. 

The novel opens on New Years Day 2008, with Carl Anderson, an 82 year-old resident of Westmount
Manoir ruminating on the various ways to die. Anderson is a retired McGill University professor and
widower. His story is reminiscent of an older, saner Humbert Humbert with the encyclopedic memory of
an elephant. His flaw is that he can’t remember anything before he was 6.

In his journal Carl writes about falling for Shelley Randell, a 26 year-old librarian, in an attempt to escape
the boredom of Westmount Manoir and his children’s lack of attention. Shelley (Carl’s Lolita) is his
friend, although he wishes she be his lover. He enlists her to accompany him back to his childhood home
of Liberal, Kansas – the home of the Wizard of Oz Museum.  The purpose of the trip is to find out what
happened in Carl’s life before he was 6.

Carl and Shelley get to know each other’s secrets. His past includes perjury and violence. Her present is
HIV positive accompanied by cancer. In some ways their trip to Liberal Kansas is a re-enactment of
Dorothy’s trip to Oz.

Anderson’s views on religion, erectile dysfunction TV ads, philosophy and hearing Opus
Clavicembalisticum by Geoffrey Douglas Madge give you some idea of the breadth of topics covered in
the journalized novel that ends in January of 2009. There is plenty of tension throughout as Carl spars
with family, friends and strangers to find the truth about his past and to give Shelley some hope for the
future.

Throughout the novel Carl’s voice is funny and literate. According to the New York Review of Books
eBook series , NYRB Lit, a book fits into literary fiction because of its “allegiance to language.” Nothing
could be more apt to describe Joel Wapnick’s (1999 World Scrabble Champion) novel.
In writing this review I became curious about older heroes in fiction. Here’s The Guardian’s list of Top 10
Old Age stories…
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/feb/02/paul-bailey-top-10-stories-old-age

4 ½ Stars
Bill S

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