In many ways, the book reads like a culmination. This is partly because of its extraordinary length and bold rhetorical devices, but also because it brings together elements from all Ellmann’s previous books: her great love of lists; the endless references to popular culture; the roarings and forebodings and glorious meanderings. I could tell you the significance of the ducks of the title, but that would cheat you of one of the great pleasures of the novel, which is just sticking with it and allowing the author to determine the pace and rhythm at which you read. “This book will either be a success or a failure,” remarks one character. “Nobody wants to hear that,” responds the narrator. Fair enough. Success? Failure? Triumph.
There’s so much more to this amazing novel. Undoubtedly it’s a long read, but it is never less than rewarding to engage with the observations of this companionable narrator. The fact that the writing has a beautiful cadence and rhythm. The fact that I haven’t even mentioned all the hilarious, salty comments about Trump (“Super callous fragile racist sexist Nazi Potus”). The fact that this isn’t just one of the outstanding books of 2019, it’s one of the outstanding books of the century, so far.