Monday, January 30, 2012

The Thousand Hour Club / George O’Har

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Literary Fiction

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


George O’Har is an Air Force veteran, a former electrical engineer, and has a Ph.D from MIT. He currently lives in the Boston area and teaches at Boston College. You can follow him on Twitter.


It’s the late 1960s. When Tom Betz drops out of college, he fails to consider his local draft board, instead spending his time working dead end jobs and doing drugs. But the draft board doesn’t forget him.


Most definitions of literary fiction are nebulous. It’s one of those “I know it when I see it” things. The two characteristics most often attributed to literary fiction are that it is more “literary” than other genres and tends to be more character driven than plot driven. The Thousand Hour Club seems to fit. (Plus, when submitting the book for review the author described it as literary fiction. Since he’s an English professor, he’d know better than I.)

More “literary” in this instance is one of those “I know it when ..” things that is difficult to articulate. Some of this feeling can be attributed to writing style and story, and part to the qualities of Tom, the protagonist. Tom is above average in intelligence (the reason he ends up in the Air Force) and an avid reader, literally introducing literature into the story. But I want to focus more on the second trait of literary fiction mentioned, being character rather than plot driven.

This raises a question; what does that mean? There has to be a plot, right? A plot is the storyline – the events in the book strung together, one after another. Each event still has to follow the previous event in a way that is both logical and credible.

In my opinion, the difference between plot driven and character driven is that, in a character driven novel, the story goal, what the protagonist hopes to accomplish, is fuzzy, if it exists at all. This doesn’t mean the protagonist doesn’t have goals. He may have many, but they are the kinds of goals we all have, possibly vaguely defined and fluid. The plot is the character living his life. If the character and his experiences are interesting, the book is, too. That Tom doesn’t know what is coming next (a recurring theme is that the military doesn’t let you know where you’re headed next) keeps the story unpredictable and the reader interested.

In the end, The Thousand Hour Club is also a coming of age story. However, unlike the typical coming of age story where the protagonist’s goal is obvious, Tom’s coming of age is precipitated by lots of accumulated experiences. Just like real life.


Adult language and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant errors.

Rating: ***** Five stars


Joansz said...

Very good review for a hard to pin-down genre. I'm curious as to how the title fits with the book. It's not quite the ten thousand hour theory where one doesn't start doing something well and "naturally" until one puts in ten thousand hours honing that skill. However, it could still be thought of as a metaphor for that theory.

I do have a slight disagreement with your definition of character vs. plot driven: "...the difference between plot driven and character driven is that, in a character driven novel, the story goal, what the protagonist hopes to accomplish, is fuzzy, if it exists at all." I have read novels that were character driven to me, and yet the protagonists goals were clear, if not from the start, at least by the second third of the novel. In fact, I think of my books as character driven because my protagonist dictated where I should take the story.

BooksAndPals said...

Joan: Although I'm not sure it would be a spoiler to say what the meaning of the title is, it isn't apparent until the very end of the book, so I'll refrain from saying anything except you are on the right track.

I like your definition except it isn't something the reader would be able to see. The writing process to create the novel is usually (and I think should be) transparent to them. I suspect few, if any, books are totally plot or character driven. I think it is a wide spectrum with a book falling more toward one end or the other. My definition *might* work for a book toward the more extreme end of the spectrum, but becomes less valid towards the middle. Your definition is accurate for all.