This is the first Tom Piccirilli I've read. The more knowledgeable Goodreads reviewers haven't been as enthusiastic about November Mourns; I bow to thThis is the first Tom Piccirilli I've read. The more knowledgeable Goodreads reviewers haven't been as enthusiastic about November Mourns; I bow to their superior wisdom, but...
Reading is an intensely personal thing and somehow for me this was just the right book at just the right time. Good prose, good characterization where needed, good atmosphere, good story, and a wonderful ambiguity to it all.
What does it all mean? I ask myself that every night between drinks. I'm not likely to find out; just pass the moon.
I would/will read November Mourns again and that gets it five stars any day of the week....more
This coming of age story is told in first person by thirteen year old Shuggie Akins. Shug is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and this could haveThis coming of age story is told in first person by thirteen year old Shuggie Akins. Shug is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and this could have been a dreary read, but it was far, far from that. In fact, I didn't want to put it down. It was an immersive read. How did Woodrell do it?
Because Shuggie is telling the story, he had to do all of the heavy lifting: world building, characterization (including his own), story, and theme all while using a complementary prose style. Shug did five out of five of these things and did them well - that's why he gets all five stars.
Woodrell does not have Shug write like he is thirteen with little (or no) schooling. If he had, it would have been a very different reading experience. Although Shug uses only the common words available to him, he uses them at once in a wonderful and economic way.
"He waved so long and drove on down the road. The wonder of that T-bird made the wet road sit up straight and wipe its face and wink."
Shuggie is observant. He describes settings briefly, but vividly. He relates those words and actions that reveal the most about his characters - the dialog is fresh and powerful. His story is both simple and complex, Shug changes as the story progresses and his relationship with his mother changes even as her basic character does not. The theme of all coming of age stories is change. Perceptions change, relationships change and, equally importantly, this is contrasted with the lack of change in other quarters. Shug does it all.
There are important things that Woodrell/Shuggie does not do. He does not waste words on issues merely tangential to or completely irrelevant to the story. No consumerism, no breathless and detailed accounts of trivia, no shaggy dog episodes that lead nowhere, no narcissistic reveries (hopefully, I have just kicked postmodernism squarely in the nuts). He has not set out to construct a literary word puzzle to dazzle the academics and bore the rest of us (take that Ulysses!). And most importantly, Woodrell never used a word, a construction, or posed an inconsistency that would cause the reader to open a dictionary, marvel, roll his eyes, stop in puzzlement or otherwise break the immersive spell he had worked so hard to cast.
I do have one minor criticism. The first chapter can be omitted in its entirety (along with the bottled screams). It functions as a sort of prologue, but everything is covered more than adequately in the remaining chapters. Perhaps Woodrell's publisher felt the already short novel was too short without it. Bullshit. Only use the words you need to tell a story; anything else is a dilution and robs the story of its power. Pretty soon there are too many words for the story to carry (this is how Daphne du Maurier wrecked Rebecca - she never wrote a sentence she didn't wish to share with the long suffering reader)....more
Yes, I liked The Secret History. I like Donna Tartt's prose. I didn't like The Little Friend, but did I say I like Tartt's prose? I kept reading and kYes, I liked The Secret History. I like Donna Tartt's prose. I didn't like The Little Friend, but did I say I like Tartt's prose? I kept reading and kept reading and...eventually...read all the way to the end. Such is the power of Tartt's prose. But that's all I can say for The Little Friend....more