Going to See the Elephant
by Rodes Fishburne
I can empathize with Rodes Fishburne, I really can. San Francisco is the most magical, whimsical, passionate, and beautiful city I've ever lived in. I hate to write, and even I could wax rhapsodic about this place. However, a great setting does not a compelling story make. At least, not always.
Going to See the Elephant (and it is a great title) is essentially the coming of age story of San Francisco newcomer Slater Brown. No, he's not a teenager. He's in his early twenties and he's come to SF to be a Writer. His dream is the write... something that will endure the ages. It's an immature dream, and Slater has a lot of learning to do in the course of the novel. First, though, he needs a job.
That he finds at the fourth-rate newspaper, The Morning Trumpet. Slater aspires to be an ace reporter. Instead, he is summarily fired after submitting his first article. That is until fate, or something like it, intervenes. And here there is a bizarre, supernatural plot device that is never really explained--although I kept waiting for something more, right up until the end of the novel. Anyway, suddenly young Slater has all the scoops any reporter could want. He's a powerbroker, a man-about-town, beloved of the people, and hated by those with secrets to hide. Most notably, he has made an enemy of the Mayor of San Francisco.
Along the way, he meets a beautiful and mysterious girl and a brilliant and mysterious inventor. He pursues both. You can pretty much guess how the girl subplot goes, and I really don't even know what to say about Milo Magnet and his incredible weather experimentation. I didn't really see the point at all. In the end, our hero learns his life lessons and has grown up a bit.
So, as I said above, I really wanted to like this novel. It had so many elements I love: humor, romance, San Francisco. But it never really worked for me. The humor wasn't really that funny. The satire--if that's what it was meant to be--not that sharp. The romance, frankly, not that interesting. The protagonist, I'm afraid, not that interesting.
I'm glad this novel speaks to many people. I sincerely wish I was one of them because I was really looking forward to reading it. Mr. Fishburne has talent. Perhaps his next novel will be more to my liking.