Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red (1998)

The plots of Daniel Woodrell's "country noirs" have a purposeful aimlessness to them. Woodrell strives not for the tightly plotted crime thriller of some imaginary Noir World but for the meandering reality of the an actual place--the Ozarks--where shit sometimes happens along the way. Thus, the uncomfortable pleasure of a Woodrell novel is simply immersing yourself in his characters and their place and their language. If drama happens, so much the better. In Tomato Red, we see through the eyes of Sammy Barlach, a surprisingly articulate many-time loser with remarkable powers of introspection and self-knowledge. Sammy's voice, in its inexplicable power, reminded me of Huck Finn, though Huck's voice is more consistent and ultimately more believable than Sammy's. Beyond this, Sammy is no Huck. Sammy is older and far more damaged than Huck, and whereas Huck flees civilization, Sammy seeks it--he wants a family, a community that will have him. In the world of noir, though, lighting out for the territory may be a better option. Grade: B-

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