Friday, May 29, 2009

Rocket Man by William Elliot Hazelgrove (a review)

Rocket Man
3 out of 5: Rocket Man, the latest novel by William Elliot Hazelgrove, chronicles a week in the life of middle-aged Dale Hammer, culminating in a Boy Scout event involving the launching of hundreds of small rockets. Notionally, Hammer is a writer, but his books were written years ago and are out of print. He's struggling to keep his family in their large suburban house by selling mortgages, but he’s a terrible salesman. Hammer’s wife is threatening divorce, his kids are mad at him for constantly breaking his fatherly promises, and his unemployed dad has moved into the room over the garage, formerly Hammer’s writing studio.

Although this book is filled with laugh-inducing episodes, it’s a bit overlong and ends up feeling more like a string of funny events loosely strung together than a cohesive novel. Additionally, Hammer's latent racism (and his father's rather blatant racism) is off-putting at times and unnecessary to the story. Despite these failings, I quite enjoyed this tale of suburban angst and laughed through the whole thing. I could see this as a successful movie starring Will Ferrell.

2 comments:

Zibilee said...

I had not yet heard of this book. I'm glad you enjoyed it, it looks like something I might like to read over the summer.

G said...

The copy of Rocket Man that I just finished came from the Chicago Public Library. Apparently someone on a rocket proofread this novel. I will never understand why publishers (not only Hazelgrove's) spend more time and money on packaging and marketing than they do on proofreading. A lot of top publishers let errors go by, but this novel is the most egregious offender. The pace of Rocket Man is hampered by the media's penchant for speed over quality.
In a crappier novel the above would have stopped me from finishing. Rocket Man is one of the most hilarious and poignant novels that I have read in a long time. It strikes with the precision of Jonathan Franz's The Corrections. Franz, coincidentally, gets mention in RM. I strongly recommend it. As other reviewers have stated this novel, the protagonist is us.