The supposed memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, a brakeman/poet recovering from a mental breakdown in the quaint seaside resort of Cape May, NJ, in 1963.
Listed: Sep 23, 2008
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Jan 9, 2009: So first of all, I should mention that I like Dan Leo’s writing. It’s clear and effective. The characters have different voices. There’s some humor, and occasionally satire.
The two stories of his that I’ve read both take place in the 1960’s and not only do they try to get the details of the period right, but he actually includes links to youtube videos of television and pictures relevant to the story.
Railroad Train to Heaven tells the story of Arnold Schnabel, a railway brakeman recovering from a mental breakdown.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Schnabel either shouldn’t have been committed to a mental institution in the first place or he definitely isn’t better. One way or another, he receives regular supernatural visitations (or hallucinations).
At the same time it’s also interesting to watch him become involved in the lives of people around him. Previous to the story, he apparently lived alone with his mother (he’s 42) and occupied himself with work and poetry, but not other human beings.
I’m not completely sure where the story is going. That’s not a complaint. I find it interesting, but it’s interesting if you find the day to day life of the main character interesting. He’s definitely on some sort of personal journey (whether or not he realizes it) and where it will end isn’t obvious.
I look forward to reading more.
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May 27, 2011: The day is coming when genre categorizations will collapse around our ears. No one would shove a copy of The Master and Margarita into the fantasy section of a Barnes and Nobles, although it has many things in common with the glossy books that you would find there – talking cats, the devil, levitation. But Bulgakov’s masterpiece is given the honor of being considered surrealistic social satire instead of fantasy. The same could be said for Dan Leo’s Railroad Train to Heaven. I realize that by making this comparison I [more . . .]
Sep 26, 2008: Railroad Train to Heaven is one of the great pleasures in my life: a story that is beautifully written, funny, intelligent, endlessly surprising and often quite moving. The world of the hapless hero (Arnold Schabel) alternates between perfectly imagined scenes of the past (the story takes place in 1963, with occasional side-trips into other eras) and surreal sequences, when Arnold’s mind seems to be playing tricks on him (such as when he visits Heaven, a huge old Victorian house where the bathroom is unfortunately hard to find.) Arnold is recovering [more . . .]
Nov 27, 2008: "Railroad to Heaven" is ostensibly the diary of a former railroad employee, circa 1963, after some sort of mental breakdown.
"Arnold Schnabel" is supposed to become a historical figure, a great poet. But both the poetry and the prose leave much to be desired. Diary reading is dull in general, but here it’s worse, because the diarist mentions interesting things without ever showing scenes. Written at a remove from events, the text inevitably leaves me, as a reader, feeling emotionally removed [more . . .]