The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart
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The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  494 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Meet Trenchmouth Taggart, the oldest living man in West VIrginia, a man whose epic and absurd life story unfolds from the moment of his frozen-river baptism in 1903. Trenchmouth, nicknamed for his inexplicable, lifelong oral affliction, is orphaned and then raised by the Widow Dorsett, a strong mountain woman who teaches him to fend for himself. Trouble seems to follow Tre...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 30th 2008 by West Virginia University Press (first published 2008)
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May 23, 2010 Kate rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: John T. at McNally Jackson in Soho
It's been a while since I so thoroughly loved a book. The combination of compelling storytelling and deft Technicolor writing is such a delight: Taylor is a writer's writer who is a joy to read. Plot-wise, the story charts the extremely long and adventurous life of Trenchmouth Taggart (that's the first of his names, anyway). Trenchmouth is a complex and very human character--we relate to his struggles and the tragedies that he endures, but the choices he makes that reveal weakness and cowardice...more
The reviews are very good but I did not like this book and Glenn Taylor is definitely no Cormack McCarthy nor John Irving. OK his character is interesting. Maybe I should say characters as Trenchmouth morphs into Chicopee, then Chicky Gold the harmonica man, then A.C. Gilbert the journalist and Pulitzer price winner (?!) and finally Ace the old man. Focusing on West Virginia is interesting and original. It is a pity the coal wars are not better described; it comes out as a bunch of messy brawls...more
I picked up this book because it was written by a family friend, and I turned each page after that because I was enjoying it so much. The well-spun life story of an outcast/ outlaw born in 1903 West Virginia. Deeply respectful of the mining life, beautifully written with great humor, outrageousness and believability. I found myself interested in all kinds of things I didn't know I was interested in: mining and labor union history, snake and gun handling, and trenchmouth, to name a few. I recomme...more
Oct 22, 2008 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: read-in-2008
My favorite book so far this year; it really deserves at least six stars. Taylor's prose sings. He illuminates even the most minor of characters. The book is filled with music and love and family and lost opportunities and love. We follow the life story of Trenchmount Taggart, through many life stages and identities. The book is primarily set in West Virginia, and Taylor brings it to life for us. He makes even the most challenging subjects fun and interesting to read about. All I can say is "wow...more
Kate SouthernBelleSimple
I actually listened to the audio version of this book and it was amazing! Trenchmouth Taggart is a fabulous character whose story covers a lot of years....but all parts were interesting and kept me wanting more. I got to hear the author read from his newest work at a book festival and he seemed like a really nice guy. I'm happy to support southern authors, especially when they write such great stories!
fell in love with this intriguing little book that so expertly, and entertainingly weaves West Virginia history and Appalachian folk tale into one cohesive story.
I thoroughly enjoyed it an easy 5/5 for me.

The book is split into three sections youth,adulthood and old age.
The first part of the book had me completely engrossed and I absolutely flew through it, things were never going to be easy for poor old Trenchmouth from the day he was born.
Always a bit of a loner due to his oral affliction, he was almost feral when growing up, then due to certain events he pretty much does become feral when he reaches adulthood and the book doesn't slow down it keeps yo...more
I've waited a few days to think about what I wanted to say about this book. When I first picked it up, I thought it would be a light read, another one of those hill stories out of West Virginia that has you just go along with it, then put it down and move on. Well, I was surprised!

I think the best way I can describe the writing is this: Other stories put you in the canoe as an observer, and you are just along for the ride. Sometimes it's choppy, other times serene, and at the end of the journey...more
Will Byrnes
In the Thomas Berger’s novel, Little Big Man, Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman in the film) recalls the events he has seen over the hundred-plus years of his life. Whether we call our historical observer Zelig, Jack Crabb, Time Traveller (from H. G. Well’ The Time Machine) or Trenchmouth Taggart, the point is to offer a view of some aspects of the human experience with a long but personal perspective. In fact Taylor tips his hat to Berger with a specific mention of Little Big Man, the movie, on page 2...more
This is a book that I wouldn't have undertaken by choice; I read it to write a summary for a website that I tutor for. It is essentially a 100-year history of the West Virginian region, as seen through the eyes of a rather unique character, Early "Trenchmouth" Taggart. It opens in the late 1800's and ends nearly 100 years later with his death. To quote the opener of my summary, "The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart by M. Glenn Taylor opens as Early “Trenchmouth” Taggart is being interviewed. At 108...more
Derek Smith
I enjoyed this book. A story almost over the top, as a 108 year old man from West Virginia tells his life story. A life that almost didn't start, as our hero is dropped as a baby through the ice, to come up some way down the river. This is Trenchmouth's cold beginning as he is rescued by his stepmother, his birthmother going into the asylum. Trenchmouth has a number of lives. The one I enjoyed most was his life fighting the vicious mine owners in a 1920s strike. He shoots some of their agents, w...more
I wish someone would make this book into a movie! I have read and reread this book and recommended it to everyone, including strangers. There is not a single boring page in this fantastic tale. I can never put it down once I read that baby's gone under the ice! This man TT, Chicky Gold, etc goes through such a beautiful and sordid life and he is very tangible.

Seriously, make this into a movie!!
The plot is original in the first third of the book, then turns into a sort of fairy tale, soon falls into nonsense, and regains some plausibility towards the end, but at the same time it becomes banal in content and style. Taggart goes through manifold events to cynically - and realistically - conclude that the concept of truth among people is arbitrary, written rules often don’t hold, only nature is steady and can offer some consolation and refuge. The narration doesn’t flow, it has often some...more
Eh. This book had a certain swagger, and the characters and situations were somewhat entertaining and outlandish in a rough-and-tumble sort of way. But the author's writing seemed shaky... The book was of course told in a certain way such that describing the writing as unpolished wouldn't make sense. Of course it was unpolished; it was supposed to be. But I felt like he wasn't as good as he thought or should have been... Reading it felt a bit like going to a jazz or classical performance and hea...more
Martin Haynes
Well worth the read. Give it a try, you will be drawn in by the language, the atmosphere and all the stuff you didn't know about 20th century American history. It will make laugh and cringe, sometimes at the same time. Now then, where's that bottle of 'shine!
I was torn between three stars and four...the book tells the life story of the fictional Trenchmouth Taggart in a way that, really, illuminates what life is like in West Virginia over the past 100 years. In short, it's been ruled by violence, substance abuse, poverty, and religion - the people have aged, many have died, new ones have been born - but the same problems remain. I decided on three stars because, in my opinion, for the book to reach the next level Trenchmouth needed to be more than a...more
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In the vein of Forrest Gump, The Ballad makes the implausible seem possible. Weaving in regional themes, dialects, and histories, the story follows Trenchmouth, equal parts gifted savante and ignorant WV mountain man. Beware the ridiculous: yep, he lets snakes rest in his strange mouth; yep, he meets John Kennedy and writes a related Pulitzer-prize winning article; yep, he plays a pivotal role in the early Chicago blues music scene; yep, women pay the young teen for his pleasuring powers. But if...more
Hoping for more out of this. Definitely no Forrest Gump, T. Made a practice of reenacting his own abandonment throughout the book. I am from southern WV although I no longer reside there. I saw ribbons of truth in the narrative, especially the writing around the Mine Wars. However the characters are fringe elements (excepting Sid Hatfield, perhaps)' and not to be confused with your run of the mill inhabitants of the region. And BTW, please remember reviewers that WV is NOT a region. It is a stat...more
Chris Shaffer
Picked up on a whim, drawn to books about mountain men, was immediately drawn into the voice and setting and characters, read it quickly and tried hard to savor it, was amazed/horrified by some of the more visceral scenes, enjoyed the journey/adventures/reminiscences of T.T. There are things in this book that I won't forget for a long time. A truly original and passionate novel. The Forrest Gump-ishness/preachy-ness that some refer to is not as bad as it sounds. In fact, I didn't get that feelin...more
Jul 30, 2011 Ally rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ally by: Kate SouthernBelleSimple
Shelves: fiction, southern-lit
I could NOT put this book down and was seriously depressed when i turned the last page. I've seen/heard a lot of people evoke Cold Mountain or Forrest Gump in describing this book, but truthfully to me Glenn Taylor's Trenchmouth eclipses them both. And it's not even close. It's a beautiful love story to Glenn Taylor's West Virginia mountains, but it was also a work that makes you question your definition of right & wrong. For a first novel, the character development was incredibly impressive...more
Connor Bagnall
Brilliant combination of adventure, drama and storytelling. I look forward to reading more from Glenn Taylor. Enjoyed this book very much. Recommended!
I didn't know what to expect from a novel called The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, but what I discovered was a unique story epically told, just like the best tales in the foothills of Appalachia. The novel covers the life of Trenchmouth Taggart, a wopping 108 years, from his tramatic infancy to his mountainman adulthood in West Virginia. From snake handling to Pulitzer Prize winning, Trenchmouth does it all. Despite being an outlaw on the run for most of his life, the urge to return to his chil...more
Lori Rader-Day
Thought it was going to be a four- or five-star kind of book until the middle doldrums, somewhere around page 180 or so. Had to finish by then, but the book never really recaptured the magic I felt in the early pages. I guess I liked Trenchmouth as a young guy making rash decisions and mistakes rather than an old man who seemed to think his actions (some of them crimes) made him better than other people. I felt that a little bit of preachy crept in where it didn't belong. As always, your mileage...more
I loved the title of this book but that's about all. Good story line of West Virginia hill people that makes you wonder if anyone could ever have lived like that. Book would have been better had it been longer where the author could have developed the characters better. A couple of "really hard to believe" times happen in this guy's life that the writer should have deleted with his final draft and concentrated on hill life instead. As it stands, it would make a much better movie than it does a b...more
Christine Granados
Glenn Taylor's first book is promising. It kept me interested throughout with all the twists and turns of Trenchmouths life. It got a little Forrest Gumpish with the many coincidences near the end but other than that it was a great read. I especially liked the first half of the book and learning about the West Virigina way if life. I'm looking forward to reading more books by this promising new voice. I recommend it highly, especially if you want to learn about W. Virginia hillbillies. Fun to re...more
This is an unusual book. It is about an unusual character (Trenchmouth Taggart) with an unusual affliction (trenchmouth) in unusual settings. I did find I had to be in the mood for it though. Sometimes it was hard going, sometimes a little depressing. There were also many heartwarming moments though. I would recommend that anyone who likes something a little different to let Trenchmouth to take you with him on his journey through life.
Louise Bloom
The kind of book I don't want to tell you about because to arrive in it's pages with no preconceptions and then to be enveloped world of Trenchmouth was such a delight.

Through the gaze of this unique character we see the world through a lens of such clarity that is enjoyable as art and inspiring as thought.

Thanks to my local public library and their staff for putting this out on the recommended shelves. A real treasure.

This book was recommended by my Aunt, who although she had not read it, heard good reviews and thought I'd appreciate the subject matter. I absolutely did. I really enjoyed the story, which was more like a multitude of separate stories which happened to carry the same theme (the main character in his many roles). I was left with an interesting, lingering essence of a character for whom I feel sorrow, happiness, and satisfaction.
This book was a finalist for the National Book Critics award this year. I had read in very interesting review that drew to me to it. I really enjoyed the first half dealing with rural West Virginia and the coal wars. I love reading novels that take to truly to someplace I never have even thought of before. As the timeline went on the book lost a little steam for me. It reminded me a bit of like an Appalachian Forrest Gump.
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M. Glenn Taylor was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. His stories have been published in such literary journals as The Chattahoochee Review, Mid-American Review, Meridian, and Gulf Coast. He teaches English and fiction writing at Harper College in suburban Chicago, where he lives with his wife and three sons.
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