Happy Thanksgiving

Posted: November 24, 2011 in notes, Southern States, USA

I thought it was appropriate to start reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin a quintessential American novel just the day before Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays. Sometimes books don’t live up to the hype and ballyhoo, but this one has me gripped from the start. But then I admit to a long love affair with small American towns and their compelling atmosphere, a subtle mixture of hospitality and menace.

I usually find blurbs a bit off-putting, but this one by Ann Hood inside the front cover made me take notice:

It’s about ordinary people like you and me, traveling through that extraordinary journey called life. I just love this book.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter reminded me a little of books by Daniel Woodrell, and Joe Lansdale, not just because it is set in the South but because of the quality of the writing. 

Five reasons you know you are in the South. 

1] Your guide refers to the “Federal occupation”, and when you explain to your puzzled fellow tourists she means the Civil War, you are firmly corrected with a drawled ‘The War between the States’.

2] A well maintained house with a beautifully kept lawn is right next door a virtually derelict shack with overgrown grass and various rusting vehicles all over the place. There is no fence between the properties because that would be unneighbourly.

3] If you take the wrong road in any town you can turn round within a 100 yards in a choice of six large church car parks.

4] You pull in to a restaurant car park, and yours is the only vehicle that is not a pick up truck with a gun rack. 

5] When the pleasant small town you stopped for lunch is revealed to be the site of a huge crystal meths laboratory in a FBI raid the next day. 

[Note on photos: Pittsburg Landing is near Savannah TN, a few miles from the Mississippi state line.] 

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Comments
  1. Norman – Oh, that list is creative and very clever! I am most impressed :-). Did you know that the Civil War has also been called The War of Northern Aggression? And I’m so glad you’re enjoying Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. It’s really a brilliant and powerful book isn’t it?

  2. Norman says:

    Margot, our tour guide [it was a trip to Arlington, Mount Vernon and Alexandria] got into her stride following up with “The War for Southern Independence”, but never went as far War of Northern Aggression. But I have read that and other interpretations of the conflict such as the Confederates referring to the Civil War, rather than the War of 1812, as The Second American Revolution.

    I have some respect for Sam Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Stonewall Jackson, but I suspect they wouldn’t have passed a psychological evaluation test to get a command position today.

    Tom Franklin is a great storyteller, and it is one of those books that I want to absorb slowly rather than rush through to get to the end.

  3. kathy d. says:

    Another side of the human condition is a major part of this wonderful book. The author’s understanding of human feelings and alienation made me cry. Yet, the friendship theme is so important here. The mystery is part of it, but it is not the focus. Relationships are, with the complexity they bring, especially in the South, where racism and poverty as strong influences.

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