Prakriti's Reviews > Tomato Red

Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell
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Jan 23, 2014

really liked it

I hate reviews grumbling about number of stars given to a particular book*, but I am about to commit that tasteless sin. Tomato Red started so explosively, so amazingly alive and witty and buzzed that I was out of my mind. Daniel Woodrell can write electric! And in describing the most homely of scenarios or thoughts. This book sincerely gave me that feeling of finding out when someone gels with you, that moment, when you realize that the person in-front is in it with your innate sense of wickedness, of naughty fun. Of when you see wit and laughter in that conversation at that moment with that woman you are so turned on by, and you just know that the sex is going to be amazing. Just the words give you that rush, that conversation, that laughter. And that anticipation.

Tomato Red started explosively and joyously like a delicious noir, resplendent dialogues strewn like diamonds along the pages. Sample the opening sentence of the book:


“YOU’RE NO ANGEL, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it’s been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you’re fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin’ down with a miserable bluesy beat and there’s two girls millin’ about that probably can be had but they seem to like certain things and crank is one of those certain things, and a fistful of party straws tumble from a woven handbag somebody brung, the crank gets cut into lines, and the next time you notice the time it’s three or four Sunday mornin’ and you ain’t slept since Thursday night and one of the girl voices, the one you want most and ain’t had yet though her teeth are the size of shoe-peg corn and look like maybe they’d taste sort of sour, suggests something to do, ’cause with crank you want something, anything, to do, and this cajoling voice suggests we all rob this certain house on this certain street in that rich area where folks can afford to wallow in their vices and likely have a bunch of recreational dope stashed around the mansion and goin’ to waste since an article in The Scroll said the rich people whisked off to France or some such on a noteworthy vacation.

That’s how it happens.

Can’t none of this be new to you.”


The kind of book where you want to read out every other line to any person you are sitting with. I think I finished reading the first hundred pages in 3-4 hours. While in office. On a busy day. Woof. Daniel Woodrell can write! And he is a joy to read. The way he weaves and tells a story trumps even the story itself. And that isn't actually as bad as that sounds.

Somewhere midway, suddenly the tone changes. Like an unexpected punch in the solar plexus. Totally unexpected. Because here you were, nuzzling, laughing. Relaxed! I don't know what happened. Maybe that is the way the tale flowed. Maybe she lost interest. But it was a jolt. The next 50 pages over three days. All the while, feeling rather shortchanged. It is during this period that I thought no way is this book being rated a 4 Star (I tend to give a lot of 4 Star ratings). This here is a 5 Star or a 3 Star.

The plot was an afterthought for me, I was drawn by the sentences; each independent of the other would read just as incendiary. The chapters are short and sparky, always classy.

Lot of reviews in here and out there talk about this being a tragedy tale. And that being the reason for the change in tone midway through the book. I don't feel that way. You can't be laughing at tragedy halfway through a book, and then suddenly turn around to say that the tragedy is making it sombre. This is country-noir, by Woodrell's own definition (didn't he invent the term himself?) and tragedy and weirdness, and a sombre heavy mood are staple expectations. There are other forces afoot here, and most readers duly acknowledging their own pedestrian sensibilities when exposed to the boombastic, burning writing of Woodrell thankfully lay away from pop theories beyond the nearest ones.

I wouldn't move beyond saying I was dissatisfied by the end. Maybe I was intended to be dissatisfied? Who knows with these noir writers?

4 Stars.



*(and the way that pronouncement seems lofty, of according judgement. I am even uncomfortable at times using the word 'review'. To be honest, I would be more comfortable with 'reading experience')
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Quotes Prakriti Liked

Daniel Woodrell
“YOU’RE NO ANGEL, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it’s been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you’re fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin’ down with a miserable bluesy beat and there’s two girls millin’ about that probably can be had but they seem to like certain things and crank is one of those certain things, and a fistful of party straws tumble from a woven handbag somebody brung, the crank gets cut into lines, and the next time you notice the time it’s three or four Sunday mornin’ and you ain’t slept since Thursday night and one of the girl voices, the one you want most and ain’t had yet though her teeth are the size of shoe-peg corn and look like maybe they’d taste sort of sour, suggests something to do, ’cause with crank you want something, anything, to do, and this cajoling voice suggests we all rob this certain house on this certain street in that rich area where folks can afford to wallow in their vices and likely have a bunch of recreational dope stashed around the mansion and goin’ to waste since an article in The Scroll said the rich people whisked off to France or some such on a noteworthy vacation.

That’s how it happens.

Can’t none of this be new to you.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
I ain’t shit! I ain’t shit! shouts your brain, and this place proves the point.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red
tags: places

Daniel Woodrell
“I slept for over a full day, as you know, but I won’t say I rested.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red
tags: rest, sleep

Daniel Woodrell
“I FELL DEEP down in there, until this bright light raised me from sleep. Coming out of a pit such as that, you think the bright light could be God or a cop on patrol.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red
tags: cop, god, sleep

Daniel Woodrell
“He’s got that ‘born to lose and lose violently’ air about him. That’s good.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
“I hate to fall back on weird to describe them, but goofy is too weak, and strange sounds too sensible.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
“The fella had wandered over to where I could totally see him, face on, in decent light, and how he looked—well, it ain’t easy for me to say out loud.

He’s the kind of fella that if he was to make it to the top based only on his looks you’d still have to say he deserved it. Hoodoo sculptors and horny witches knitted that boy, put his bone and sinew in the most fabulous order. Dark-haired, green-eyed, with face bones delicate and dramatic both. If your ex had his lips you’d still be married. His size was somewhat smallish, but he was otherwise for certain the most beautiful boy I ever had seen. I’m afraid “beautiful” is the only word I can make work here, and I’m not bent or nothin’, but beautiful is the truth.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
“Then she moved backwards, deeper into the shadow. All I could see was that she was barely there, like something you almost recall: the Pledge of Allegiance, your daddy’s real name.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
“Taggin’ that name on you, that was like casting a curse on you. Oh, baby, your ma made a sorry, shitty prediction on your whole life and hung a name on you that would help the sorry, shitty stuff come true.”

“You ain’t bringin’ me any news.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red
tags: name

Daniel Woodrell
“She dressed to cast her daughter in a frumpy light.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
“I, myself, often wished to be spared the expectation of better days ahead or such.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
“Your palms break sweat and you sit there, needy, while your work ethic and character are available for comment from strangers you wouldn’t share a joint with at a blues festival.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
“Nobody cares for getting belittled by a person you’ve had sex with. A person you’ve licked all over. Nobody wants to sit there and get run down too far by somebody who gives them a hard-on.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red

Daniel Woodrell
“Sammy, wouldn’t you like to add up to something? In the future? Amount to something?”

“Naw. I just figure to roll on, stackin’ days, you know, till the day I fuck up big enough the future gets canceled. Or else all planned out for me, maybe. There’s a somewhat likely chance of that.”

“Man, Sammy, I can’t live thinking that way"

"Well,I don't think about it.”
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red


Reading Progress

January 23, 2014 – Shelved
January 23, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
January 24, 2014 – Started Reading
January 24, 2014 –
page 30
15.79% "Oh dear god, this is dynamite! It started off like craaaaaaazy and it goes on like that. EVERY SENTENCE is quotable. What bloody quibbling, burning writing!\n \n Ohdeargod"
January 24, 2014 –
page 100
52.63% "Like a reviewer here has said "Daniel Woodrell's Tomato Red is lighthearted and wickedly funny - until it abruptly isn't, and you are in vain trying to recover from the unexpected whiplash from the change in direction and tone, and trying to figure out when exactly this black comedy became tragedy - and has it been tragedy all along but you just haven't noticed in time???""
January 27, 2014 –
page 130
68.42% "I am very bummed out by the tone change midway in the book. From up about and witty, it has become dreary and a plod. Tch."
January 28, 2014 – Finished Reading

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