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Book Review: John Gardner's Grendel

There has never been such a misunderstood monster as Grendel. At least, that’s the way John Gardner tells it. And trust me, you want to hear John Gardner tell things—LOTS of things—because when he does, they flow like fine wine.


The story is told from Grendel's perspective, and you empathize, if not exactly sympathize with the snot-nosed monster. In a way, Grendel tells a coming-of-age story, but it’s not his own. It’s ours. Grendel watches the Danes develop into a people. As he ages, their culture does as well. They build, they evolve, and Grendel evolves along with them, but in his own curious-monster way.


Gardner’s writing is spare and sparse in the best literary style. He grinds away every unnecessary word until each word that remains is doing at least three different things. The resulting clarity is stunning. Watching Gardner hand-carve his syntax is almost as enjoyable as watching him carve the plot.


I recommend Grendel. Even if you don’t share my syntax fetish, who wouldn’t want to watch Grendel lose a philosophical argument with an arrogant, windbag dragon? If you'd like to read more of my reviews, check out either my GoodReads page, or my BookBub page!

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