Friday, June 13, 2008
Sentimental, Heartbroken Rednecks: A Book Review
This is my second book in Maggie’s Summer Southern Reading Challenge. Click here to learn more about my summer reading plans.
Greg Bottoms, Sentimental, Heartbroken Rednecks: Stories (New York: Context Books, 2001), 216 pages, no pictures.
When I came across the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. I wanted to make sure that one of the stories weren’t an unauthorized biography of me! I couldn’t be so lucky.
This is a fine collection of 13 short stories by a young southern author from Virginia. A number of these stories are essays about real people an events such as the title story which is about Breece D’J Pancake, a young promising writer and graduate from the University of Virginia (Bottom’s alma mater), and who committed suicide. Another is about an obscure artist receiving what he took as a call from God to create a work depicting the final judgment. Another is about the author’s great-grandfather, who was baptized a second time at the age of three in 1902. He slipped from the preacher’s (his father) hand and thought to have drowned. They were all mourning and when it turned out he wasn’t dead, people too it as a sign. The boy grew up into a man and becomes a “lying, hypocritical, womanizing preacher.”
There are many themes that run through this collection: death, love, violence, abandonment, suicide, hopeless, poverty, drugs, race and religion. A sense of loss and a Kafkaesque helplessness fill most of the characters. Several of the stories remind me of Jack Kerouac’s search for his father. In a way, these stories are like those of Richard Ford, but removed from the American West and into the mid-Atlantic region (they mostly take place in Virginia, with North Carolina and Washington DC receiving token mentions).
I love the way Bottoms explores a relationship between a man and woman, hinting what will happen to the two of them later in the relationship as he describes them infatuated with each other in the present moment. I also enjoyed his last story, where the “hero” is a fat homeless man. Most of these stories are a pleasure to read. Many of them made me thankful, some made me wonder why I’ve been so blessed.
For other book reviews by Sage, click here.
For Semicolon's Saturday's list of book reviews in blogs, click here.