Sunday, February 08, 2015
Book #1 of 2015
I must admit I almost bailed on Wilton Barnhardt in the middle of chapter one. I found the central consciousness so annoying, so cloying, and so close in maturity and temperament to the middle school students who assail me daily in class that I nearly shelved the book in my "donations" pile. But I persevered, and gladly...because this novel progresses through the points of view of several characters associated with a grand old Southern family not only in decline, but in precipitous free-fall. Many chapters are dark and sardonic in the tradition of Southern Lit, but there is always a lively and wry sense of the humor of things, and some outrageous laugh-out-loud moments. Barndhardt captures the South, and its damnably intractable problems with race, poverty, and historical accuracy. But this South is not your grandparents' Dixie, and it is doomed to fall a second time to the combined civilizing pressures external to it and to those continuing to rise within its boundries.