Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken

Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken

McCracken, Elizabeth. Niagara Falls All Over Again. Dial Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0385318372 320 pp. $25.99

Just as McCracken showed us the world of librarianship in The Giant’s House, here she offers a peep at the exotic traveling life of vaudeville in the early and mid 1900’s. Jewish Midwesterner Moses Sharp narrates his experience as the straight man professor to fat funnyman Rocky Carter on radio, stage and screen in a long and successful partnership that is wrought with argument, compromise, affairs, and hard work, like any marriage of two minds.

Although McCracken may limit her audience with her choice of topic and period references, every time I almost put the book down because I was tired of missing allusions, a laugh out loud funny scene came along, such as the radio scene where the sound man is drunk and uses hoofbeats for every audio effect. McCracken’s insightful gems are universal (“Love is an animal that can–with a great deal of patience–be taught to sleep in the house. That doesn’t mean it won’t kill you if you’re not careful.” p. 93), her humor is easily accessible (the Sharp and Carter bits are funny as Abbott and Costello), and she has a poet’s knack for stringing together words to create vivid imagery: “In the corner a young man with dark hair that fell into his eyes sat at a grand piano, his shoulders already up to his ears, his hands above the keyboard, as though her were a character in a Swiss clock, waiting for the hour to strike.” p. 161

A certain set of readers will love this book, but it may not find a wide audience in spite of its universal themes of marriage and relationships, and of maintaining humor and sanity in the face of devastating loss. Recommended for fans of John Irving.

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