Bronia Kita’s first novel, The Swansong of Wilbur McCrum, is a funny book in both senses. A Western told by its eponymous hero in his dying moments, the swansong is a slapstick comedy of accidents and misunderstandings that propel Wilber McCrum from a child too weak for the Wild West to infamous outlaw to circus freak to respectable town librarian.
The novel certainly has its comic moments, but there is no emotion. The Swansong of Wilbur McCrum is never particularly convincing and an unfortunate quirk is Bronia Kita’s replacement of the word ‘if’ with ‘iffen,’ presumably as an attempt to give Wilbur McCrum an accent. Used in isolation, this device inevitably fails – serving only to surprise us with how often we use the word ‘if’ – and quickly irritates.
With so many tragic characters, there should be moments of pathos, but here freaks are just freaks. Nobody grows and nobody matures.