Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Recommended Reading - THE BOTTOMS

I told the story awhile back about how the Borders near us was closing and how they were having amazing sales. One of the benefits for me as a reader was that I was able to try authors I hadn't heard of or read before. One of these amazing finds was a novel by Joe R. Lansdale called The Bottoms.

Lansdale weaves an atmospheric tale that takes place in East Texas in the 1930s, hypnotizing the reader with a story that is reminiscent of a darker, edgier version of To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a story of race and murder and fear but it's also one of family, of a father and a son whose relationship evolves even as their world implodes and the people they know become strangers.  

The writing itself feels like someone pulling out a chair and inviting you to sit and stay awhile, to make yourself comfortable. The details are sharp, the descriptions often edged with sharp humor. Here are a few examples:

* Young Harry describes his home - "We lived in the back woods near the Sabine River in a three room white house Daddy had built before we were born. We had a leak in the roof, no electricity, a smoky wood stove, a rickety barn, a sleeping porch with a patched screen, and an outhouse prone to snakes."

* "Mr. Ethan Nation was a big man in overalls with tufts of hair in his ears and crawling out of his nose. His boys were redheaded, jug-eared versions of him. They all chewed tobacco, probably since birth, and their teeth that weren't green from lack of cleaning were brown with chaw...if you took the Nation family's brains and wadded them up together and stuck them up a gnat's butt and shook the gnat, it'd sound like a ball bearing in a boxcar."

* "...I heard a squeaking behind me, turned to see an ancient, legless, colored man in a cart covered by a willow stick and a tarp roof, drawn by a big glossy white hog fastened up in a leather harness. The old man was bald and his scalp was wrinkled like a leather bag that had been wadded up and smoothed out by hand. He could have hidden a pencil in the wrinkles on his face."

Regular readers to the blog know that I am not one to rave about a book just because I liked it. I rave about a book because it stayed with me, whether because of the writing or the story or both. This one? Both. Absolutely.

Has anyone read this novel or anything else by Joe R. Lansdale? (I've only read this and his story in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, but his website lists a number of books and stories.)


  1. I've read a ton of his short fiction over the years, but no novels yet. I'll definitely give this one a try!

    Also, congratulations on meeting your July W1S1 goals!

  2. I've never read this author before, but he's on my wishlist now. Thank you for the review!

  3. Thanks, Shelley! I'm going to look into some of his short fiction, now, too. :)

    Ellie, I hope you like it!

  4. You've sold me on the examples here. I'd be interested in what other readers have to say.

  5. Sally, it was hard to choose just a few examples - there are a lot of great lines and details throughout the novel.