Angie's Reviews > The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine

The Trouble with Tom by Paul  Collins
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Jul 21, 09


Paul Collins teaches locally at PSU, and after hearing rave reviews of his class I've decided to someday take a writing class from him. I then found out he'd be at Powell's for a reading and signing, so off I went with a friend (one of the ones who'd taken that class). I couldn't quite decide which book to get, so I got this and another (Banvard's Folly). I was really curious as to his style of writing, since one of the other audience members asked why he didn't have indexes, and he said it's because he writes narratives. His sources are explained in essays at the back of each book.

Using narrative to write nonfiction is a great idea. I'm not savvy enough to know if there's another word for it, but basically the author goes on a journey- in this case to find the bones of Thomas Paine- and walks us through it with him. The reader gets the sense of the journey made and a good story at the same time. I had no idea that Thomas Paine, one of our founding fathers, was actually not well liked during his time. In fact, his fans and admirers were something of a fringe group in many cases. This book follows the story of his bones, which were taken on a journey of their own by different admirers trying to figure out what to do with them.

I highly recommend it, based on his writing style alone, which I find conversational and easy to follow. Having seen him speak, I can even almost hear his voice saying the words out loud- and I love writers who write how they speak.
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