Friday, October 8, 2010

The Color of Coffee the Way Women Drink It

[I’m in Italy vacationing with my husband, but I set this to post before I left home. After doing three blog posts/week for three years, it’s hard to be away from Pen and Palette for very long!]

My friend, Tom Franklin, has several novels and collections of short stories out there, but his latest, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” is my favorite. Why? Not to diminish its noir side—I’m not a big fan of noir—his latest is toned down a bit in its darkness and toned up a bit in its literary quality, in my opinion. In fact, Memphis Flyer book reviewer, Leonard Gill, calls it “Country Dark.” [It’s too early to link to this review, which is in the October 7-13 Flyer: “Tom Franklin: Deep South storyteller.” You might try this link after October 7, and then click on “Books.”]

In Gill’s review of Tom Franklin’s latest novel, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” he echoes other reviewers who have said that Tom’s latest novel is “a gentler take on what Franklin’s fans have come to think of as his signature territory—the violent, male-dominated, backwoods Deep South….”

Oh, the violence and good ole boys are there, but so are the rich relationships and complicated culture of the South. And beautiful prose:

“Her drawn face pretty despite how the cold made her lips tiny, her skin the color of coffee the way women drank it….”

And Heminway-ish sentences that go on and on with the cadence of a poet, even when his subjects are “The confluence of pickup trucks” and “rebuilt carburetors.” He writes about mechanics, about fathers and sons, and about “what must have been happiness.”

Tom’s metaphors are always point on, as he writes about how “saws screamed out like people burning in a fire” and the “breath torn from her lips like tissues from a box.” His character descriptions are vivid:

“Rather than his father’s tall, pitcher’s physique and blond curls and dark skin and green eyes, Larry got Uncle Colin and his mother’s olive skin and straight brown hair and brown eyes with long lashes which, attractive on women, made Larry and Uncle Colin soft and feminine, seat belt users who ate tilapia.” (Tracking back to earlier references about seat belts and talapia.)

I’m loving the book and had a great time hearing Tom read from it at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi, last week. He was at Off Square Books in Oxford on October 6 and Davis Kidd in Memphis on October 7.

If you didn’t get to one of Tom’s readings, you might enjoy his NPR Interview: “Unlikely Friends Color Novel’s Deep South.”

Want more about Tom? Read my blog post from two years ago about my first visit to the Neshoba County Fair, where Tom was reading.

[I still owe you a beer, Tom! Remind me when I’m in Oxford in November for the 2010 Creative Nonfiction Conference.]


NRIGirl said...

Hi! Glad to stop by your blog. The title of the book is quiet interesting, your review makes me want to read it! Will try...

Care to stop by for some Coffee with Jesus?


ficwriter said...

I agree! And you picked one of my favorite lines in your quotes when Franklin describes Larry and Uncle Colin as "soft and feminine, seat belt users who ate tilapia.” His prose is gritty and lyrical and funny.

He begins with "The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting for him." From that first sentence to the last (which I won't give away) I marveled and coveted my though every sentence of his complex, masterful, and riveting novel.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is pure genius.