Monday, August 14, 2006
The title of this novel caught my eye in an advert in the NYRB, and in the mysterious process by which brains choose books I ordered it ASAP without ever having heard of Donald Harington.
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks is a true pleasure--perhaps the most satisfying novel I've read since Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. We follow the descendents of Jacob Ingledew for 150 years as they found the town of Stay More, watching it grow and prosper and finally fade away. Along the way are belly laughs galore. Mr. Harington deftly caricatures the humble mountain folk he potrays without humiliating them in the least; he's got the saucy sagacity of Twain, the peculiar folksy depth of Sherwood Anderson, and the off-kilter po-mo mojo of Vonnegut. I grew up in a part of Pennsylvania where folks ain't too far offen those featured in this book*, where lunch is dinner and dinner is supper, where gossip can make its way around a mountain before the events discussed are even finished, where tall tales take on a reality of their own. I'll definitely be reading Mr. Harington's catalog.
*nod to Mr. James Carville, tho he described South Central PA as akin to Alabama rather than Arkansas