A Giant’s House

Some time back, I posted about Elizabeth McCracken’s short story collection, Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry. Though I’m far more likely to read short-form work than long-form, I liked McCracken’s collection enough that when I came across her novel A Giant’s House, I picked it up.

I’m glad I did. One thing I liked in McCracken’s short stories was the way she handled the weird. While obviously fascinated by odd people, McCracken always takes care to make her characters human. When she writes about circus freaks or lying old ladies, she does a great job handling the interplay between humanity and oddity. The novel is mostly about a boy, James Carlson Sweatt, who is a giant (as in, he grows abnormally tall), and a librarian, Peggy Cort. Both of these characters are deeply weird — James because he’s physically weird and Peggy because she so adamantly refuses to participate in life the way others do. I think what I liked most about this book was that McCracken gets the reader into these people so well that I ended up in their world, perceiving the normal people as weird.

There’s a great scene where James tries to appear as part of an advertising campaign for a shoe store, but puts them off when they discover his feet are terribly infected. The infection has come about because James can’t feel his feet and doesn’t take care of them. Peggy tries to wash his feet and take care of him. The scene is great because it brings James’ situation so clearly to the forefront. He’s just a boy, but he’s terribly sick, and Peggy’s best efforts really aren’t good enough.

I find it harder to take excerpts from novels, but here’s a little one:

Ordinary-size people, they don’t know: their lives have been rehearsed and rehearsed by every single person who ever lived before them, inventions and improvements and unimportant notions each generation, each year. In 600 B.C. somebody did something that makes your life easier today; in 1217, 1892. Somebody like James had to ad-lib any little thing: how to sit, how to travel.


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