Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale ... a review


I don't remember who recommended this book to me (I should keep a list of these things - but, then I'd have to keep a list on my desktop of where the list is being kept, and then - well ... anyway), however, I am so glad they did! I also don't know how this book published twenty years ago escaped my attention; obviously, I wasn't paying attention!

Some authors have the unique gift of writing in a way that makes poverty - especially Great Depression poverty - seem almost beautiful. Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison were/are all able to create a private, secluded world of hard scrabble and destitution that existed in a bubble of familial love and compassion and comraderie. Joe R. Lansdale, the author of The Bottoms, is that kind of author. Though the characters in this novel are dirt poor and the plot line is squalid and grubby on the surface, the author has put a 'spit shine' on the whole thing and it has sparkle and romance to it that perhaps it doesn't deserve, but, nonetheless it's there and it's a joy to live through. As Tom says in the opening of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, "The stage magician gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion."

The book is a narration by a very elderly man in a nursing home as he reminisces about his youth in a small town in East Texas. It's a coming of age tale that involves family history and discovery, awareness of Jim Crow racism, violence, rape and alcoholism, and finally a serial killer. Though the serial killer follows the story through the entire book, it is - in no way, shape, or form - a thriller. It's no more a serial killer book than To Kill a Mockingbird is about child abuse. It's a strategic part of the narrator's history - but it's not the focus of the author.

I'm not going to write more about it, because I'm afraid that I will spoil it for anybody who decides to take my prodding recommendation and reads it. This is one terrific book.

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan


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