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Modern Baptists (Tula Springs)

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  295 ratings  ·  46 reviews
This title is enjoying a renewed interest after the "New Yorker" article on the author. "Mr. Wilcox has real comic genius. He is a writer to make us all feel hopeful, " wrote Anne Tyler in the "New York Times Book Review."
Paperback, 239 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Louisiana State University Press (first published 1983)
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"Bobby, do you think you drink too much?"

"I guess so."

"And we're Baptists."

"Modern Baptists can drink. It's only stuffed shirts like Dr. McFlug who don't."

"Well, I guess I'm a modern Baptist, then." She was still looking at the sky. "Want to get drunk?"

Bobby Pickens's life will never be the same now that his half-brother, F.X., has been sprung from prison and parked himself on the plastic-covered love seat in Bobby's house. Within a matter of days, EVERYTHING will be crazy, convoluted and spiral
A very satisfying read with a gentle story. The hero (Mr Pickens) is brilliantly exasperating and exasperated with his brother's (the awesomely named F.X.) constant pursuit of fame and adoration. I fell in love with the female characters (Donna Lee and Burma) as they try to fix the lives of the hapless brothers, although I secretly hoped they'd give up on them and leave Tula Springs for better things. This book makes you feel like you're bathing in a hot southern sun on a wooden porch (maybe in ...more
Jim Wilcox is one of the nicest writers I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. He's super generous with his time, gracious in his feedback on others' writing, and always the Southern gentleman. And in Modern Baptists, a sense of the genteel buts up against some fairly Faulkner-esque happenings, and the comic plot that ensues provides characters ample opportunities to miss sharply described chances at changing for the better. Tula Springs, the fictional setting of this novel, is so clearly inscri ...more
Funny, I think I know some of the characters in this book. I live in the community in which this story takes place and, I can tell you, it is an accurate account. The humor is subtle but sharp. I found myself laughing at things a few pages later... Don't understand why some people hated it so much. I do agree that you kind of expect more to happen but then, nothing really happens here anyway.
L. Scott
All I can say is, if you don't like it, then fuck you and I don't want to be your friend.
Stephen Roth
Poor Bobby Pickens. His doctor has diagnosed him with malignant cancer, his half-brother, F.X., has moved in after being been released from Angola Prison, and Bobby is in danger of losing his job as assistant manager at the Sonny Boy Bargain Store in Tula Springs, Louisiana.

If that doesn't sound particularly funny, read on for a few pages and see why Bobby Pickens (or "Mr. Pickens" as he is usually addressed) might be the most amusing Southern anti-hero since Ignatius Reilly in Confederacy of Du
Modern Baptists is a comic satire set in Tula Springs, Louisiana. We follow Mr Bobby Pickens, a middle-aged bachelor diagnosed with malignant cancer, through a chain of unfortunate events riddled with social faux pas, as he allows his drug-dealing ex-con of a brother, FX, to move into the family home. Modern Baptists is subtle and off-beat, the plot is charming and amusing although, at times, tinged with sadness. I absolutely adored this book and the good old Mr Pickens.
Greg Robinson
I like absurd, flawed, rascally characters. And it's better when they remind me of myself and everyone I know. Some of the forms pride, narcissism and pseudo-intelligence take down here. I like the desperation of the characters. There is no grand finale or driving plot. Things just happen in a loosely related, non-hierarchical fashion. I don't mind that. I don't go after a climax, but instead an atmospheric message. It's very funny as well. I am sure some parts hit some people as funnier than ot ...more
Anna Engel
Mr. Pickens is intensely unlikeable. He's that dumpy, clueless, slightly creepy guy you've undoubtedly run into during the course of your life. He probably hit on you. He doesn't realize he smells faintly of BO or that his hair hasn't been washed in a while. There were probably food stains on his haphazardly tucked-in shirt. He's desperate to be liked, but he's so unlikeable and socially inept that he's always alone, thus exacerbating the antisocial behavior. He doesn't pick up on social cues th ...more
Michael Soros
If you like novels of the Southern States as I do, and you like those novels set in fairly nondescript places we all have to live in, and you like characters that are nothing special and don't save the world - then you will really like this book. Really like it. I rarely laugh when reading novels and have read a few which I have found more sad than funny but this one does justice to the term 'understated humour'. I had to reread some of the paragraphs and sentences because they were written in s ...more
Apr 01, 2010 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dan by: Julia
This is another one of those books: I’m not sure whether I’m judging myself or the book.

This is humorous fiction. The characters are more or less ordinary people living in a small town in Louisiana. Almost all reflect the community’s lack of intellectual, educational and financial opportunity. At the beginning, Mr. Pickens is an assistant manager of what seems to be a cheap “department store” called Sonny Boy. Two of the prominent female characters are Burma, in her late thirties, and Toinette,
The Southern United States is difficult. We are backwards yokels who still delude ourselves with the legend of the genteel Southerner, that the Civil War was fought over states' rights, that we are righteous before God and man.

Wilcox's wonderfully awkward hero, the man-child Mr. Pickens, tries his best to find love and respect within his painfully podunk town. But unlike the jokes many Northerners tell, none of the characters are stupid or cruel. They are earnestly, yet ignorantly, pursuing the
Don't be deceived by the first 50 pages--

I was super disappointed by the novel's first 50 pages or so. It wasn't funny, engrossing, or interesting, and so I wasn't sure if I wanted to read on, but when it hit the halfway point, things got better and the story sucked me in. The way Wilcox weaves together various character threads in the second half of the book is really masterful, reminding me of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and P.G. Wodehouse's The Code of the Woosters.

Though I s
Feb 06, 2014 Dave rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: us, comedy
Living myself in a small town somewhat distanced from London I couldn't help but wondering if James Wilcox was nostalgic or snubbing his hometown Tula Springs in favour of New Orleans/New York. The notes say the former is true and it makes for a better read seen in that light.

It's very funny too.
Not really sure what to make of this book. According to the reviews, the author has 'real comic genius' but I can't say I noticed it. It is certainly a different book to one that I would usually read and I haven't read one set in America for a long time. I suppose it is quite a good depiction of middle class life in America's deep south but I couldn't really relate to the central character initially. As the plot unfolded I began to understand Mr.Pickens more and more and will conclude that the b ...more
John Bateman
Entertaining, battered and friend in bible belt quirkiness.
David Matthes
Overall pretty disappointing; thankfully it wasn't too long. Very slow start and didn't pick up much pace until close to the end. How anyone can mention it in the same conversation with Confederacy of Dunces is beyond me. CoD was frequently laugh out loud funny while MB barely elicited a couple of smiles....mostly because I was almost finished reading it.
Writing was very good, the characters were interesting but the story was pretty dull.
A re-read for me. Wilcox was at the Radcliffe Publishing Course a million years ago when I attended, and I read it back then. I think I recall it as better than it was. Characters weren't all that appealing, and one of the key ones (the lawyer) shows up two-thirds of the way through. The book is obviously comic, but I wasn't laughing much. Maybe it's just me.

Can anyone suggest another Wilcox book? I'd like to give him another try.
The back cover keeps describing this book as a comedy but while there were surely some absurd moments, I found myself reading it with sadness. The characters seemed pathetic and I was waiting for more to 'happen'. To me this book is sort of like a walk on a cloudy day- not unpleasant, certainly the right thing for a certain mood, but nothing to make particular note of.
Martin Cerjan
Long on character and short on plot, but funny. This genre of odd southern characters behaving crazy is entertaining and somewhat stereotypical. Having lived in the south for many years, however, I have met and known many of these types. You can't help but laugh at loud at some of the antics and dialog. I can picture most of it and it tickles my funny bone. Good fun.
H R Koelling
I had read this would be an amazing book. It was supposed to be James Wilcox's best.

I wasn't impressed at all. I thought the plot was slow and that nothing really ever happened. Maybe this is exactly what he wanted to write about. He's supposed to be a great southern writer and so I think that the slowness and plodding plot reflect the genre. It just wasn't for me.
It's quirky and droll, but ultimately lacking in any overt humour. There's certainly a lot to be said for subtlety and understatement, but there needs to be eventual pay off at some stage. Pickins is a fine character; nervous, socially awkward, self-absorbed but ultimately apathetic, he is very believable. It's just a shame he didn't have more to do.
Wilcox's humor is definitely subtle and off-beat, but it's a variety I enjoy. More than the storyline, I enjoyed the characters and Wilcox's writing style. I am not breaking my neck to get to the bookstore, but would definitely read this author again if I happened across another of his books.
I find it's like "A Confederacy of Dunces" in that the main characters are sympathetic but you get an understanding more of their failings than their strengths. It's set in Tula Springs, Louisiana, which I found to be another parallel, both books being set in Louisiana.
This is modern Louisiana literature in the same family as 'The Moviegoer' or 'A Confederacy of Dunces', but a mild and forgettable cousin in relation to those two masterpieces. Humorous and tinged with sadness. I actually can't decide whether I liked it or not.
Feb 14, 2008 Henry rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Henry by: My Brother (the man of too many names)
You don't have to be a Baptist (or crazy) to enjoy this book, but it probably helps.

Having grown up in the South I can really relate to the characters in this book.

I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me.
Another funny southern fiction work. Less realistic than some in the genre. The characters in this book had so many issues and problems it was a little difficult to be too amused.
Last book in this series of Comic Novels that Literarians book group members are reading. Didn't find it terribly funny, but am very glad I read it. A terrific writer.
I really didn't enjoy this book. But I kept reading hoping it would get better. It's about a bunch of disfunctional, poor communicating family and "friends".
A three part book with less finality at the actual end than nearer the beginning. The characters were realistic to a point but seemed very morose.
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James Wilcox (b. 1949 in Hammond, Louisiana) is an American novelist and a professor at LSU in Baton Rouge.

Wilcox is the author of eight comic novels set in, or featuring characters from, the fictional town of Tula Springs, Louisiana. Wilcox's first book Modern Baptists (1983) remains his best known work. His other novels are North Gladiola (1985), Miss Undine's Living Room (1987), Sort of Rich (1
More about James Wilcox...

Other Books in the Series

Tula Springs (5 books)
  • Miss Undine's Living Room
  • Polite Sex: A Novel
  • Sort of Rich
  • North Gladiola
Polite Sex: A Novel Sort of Rich Miss Undine's Living Room Plain and Normal: A Novel North Gladiola

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