Friday, September 14, 2007

An Ozark odyssey you won't forget

Here's another johnny-come-lately endorsement for Daniel Woodrell, whose 2006 novel Winter's Bone is a great piece of writing. I'd never heard of this author until Uriah at Crime Scraps mentioned Woodrell's novel Tomato Red in a post the other day. The passage he quoted was so evocative that I decided to investigate.

Woodrell is a superb stylist, and with this particular protagonist, plot and setting, he's created something that reads a lot like literature. A 16-year-old Ozark mountain girl has become the de facto head of the house since her no-account dad decamped to parts unknown. He's put up the house and land as bond, and unless he can be found, the girl and her young brothers will be left homeless during a particularly bleak winter.

The story reminds me of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain -- a noble quest in a brutish world -- and I've not seen characters so sharply and economically drawn in a long while. While the milieu of rural crank labs and amoral tribalism is pretty grim, there is also enough humor to humanize it.

I'll be reading the rest of Daniel Woodrell's novels in the weeks to come.


Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks for the credit Dave. The internet is a wonderful contrivance. I found the recommendation of Daniel Woodrell's Tomato Red in an interview by Reed Farrel Coleman, creator of Jewish detective Moe Prager. I had no idea that Woodrell had written the book and screenplay for Ride with the Devil one of my favourite movies. I certainly hope to read some more of Woodrell's books.

Dave K. said...

I know "Ride With the Devil" pretty well -- interesting that Woodrell wrote the screenplay. I remember when they were filming it here in Kansas.

I'm just happy to have stumble onto such a good writer. Tomato Red is next on the list.

Uriah Robinson said...

Oops I got that wrong apparently James Schamus wrote the screenplay, but the film is based on Daniel Woodrell's novel Woe to Live On.

Maxine said...

I picked up a recommendation for this book from Sarah Weinman's blog (Confessions of an Idosyncratic Mind) a year (?) ago and have had it bookmarked in Amazon ever since, waiting for it to come out in the UK. I read it over my summer holiday and agree that it is brilliant. A Greek tragedy,in the terrible ordeal suffered by the main character who has to continue on a mysterious task with no reason to know why or how it will end. (Reminiscent also of Frodo's journey).
I wrote a brief review as part of a nine-book round-up on Petrona last week. Brilliant, as well as short (I always appreciate short books!). A poetic novella.

Dave K. said...

I read your review, Maxine, and may I say that it was brilliant as well.

I was particularly moved by this book because I've had occasion to know real people and places not so far removed from the Dolly clan.

(I wondered how some of the colloquialisms might be received across the pond, but apparently they posed no problem.)