Synopses & Reviews
These fourteen funny stories tell the tale of a beleaguered boyhood down home where the dogs still run loose. As a boy growing up in the tiny backwater town of Forty-Five, South Carolina (where everybody is pretty much one beer short of a six-pack), all Mendal Dawes wants is out
It's not just his hometown that's hopeless. Mendal's father is just as bad. Embarrassing his son to death nearly every day, Mr. Dawes is a parenting guide's bad example. He buries stuff in the backyard—fake toxic barrels, imitation Burma Shave signs (BIRD ON A WIRE, BIRD ON A PERCH, FLY TOWARD HEAVEN, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH), yardstick collections. He calls Mendal "Fuzznuts" and makes him recite Marx and Durkheim daily and befriend a classmate rumored to have head lice.
Mendal Dawes is a boy itching to get out of town, to take the high road and leave the South and his dingbat dad far behind—just like those car-chasing dogs.
But bottom line, this funky, sometimes outrageous, and always very human tale is really about how Mendal discovers that neither he nor the dogs actually want to catch a ride, that the hand that has fed them has a lot more to offer. On the way to watching that light dawn, we also get to watch the Dawes's precarious relationship with a place whose "gene pool [is] so shallow that it wouldn't take a Dr. Scholl's insert to keep one's soles dry."
To be consistently funny is a great gift. To be funny and cynical and empathetic all at the same time is George Singleton's special gift, put brilliantly into play in this new collection.
"A precocious Southern boy tries to come to terms with his father's odd legacy in this first novel by short-story writer Singleton (The Half-Mammals of Dixie; etc.), a quirky coming-of-age yarn set in the tiny town of Forty-Five, S.C., in the 1970s. Mendal's mother runs off to Nashville when he's just a baby, leaving his father, an eccentric jack of all trades, to raise the boy alone. Mendal's upbringing makes it hard for him to fit in 'I had a reputation for being some kind of loner hermit freak at Forty-Five High School because my father made me read all of Durkheim and Marx and recite it daily' but he has a few good friends: acerbic Shirley Ebo, 'the only black girl preintegration at Forty-Five Elementary,' and Compton Lane, also motherless. Much of the novel is an excuse for Singleton to string together a series of loosely connected anecdotes peopled by characters who might have stepped out of the pages of a Flannery O'Connor novel. At the center of most is Mendal's father, who alternately flummoxes and delights his son with his strange habits, playing pranks on neighbors he dislikes and compulsively burying random objects in the yard. Like a gentler Harry Crews, Singleton explores the backwaters of Southern life in this offbeat, episodic novel. Agent, Liz Darhansoff at Darhansoff, Verrill & Feldman. (Sept. 17)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
andquot;A disturbingly askewand#8212;at times, downright surrealand#8212;visioin of the South.andquot;
"A disturbingly askew—at times, downright surreal—visioin of the South."
—Entertainment Weekly Entertainment Weekly
"This is a South that knows something of suburbia and while the characters may not be in the best circumstances, this is a great new take on the hard-drinking, hardscrabble Southerner."
—The Raleigh News and Observer
Eleven raucous stories, set in Singleton's fictional town of Forty-five, South Carolina, where everyone's dirty laundry is in plain sight
As a boy growing up in the tiny backwater town of Forty-Five, South Carolina, all Mendal Dawes wants is out
. It's not just his hometown that's hopeless. Mendal's father is just as bad. He buries stuff in the backyard--fake toxic barrels, imitation Burma Shave signs (Bird on a Wire, Bird on a Perch, Fly toward Heaven, First Baptist Church), yardstick collections. He calls Mendal "Fuzznuts." He makes him recite Marx and Durkheim daily and take terrible unpaid jobs helping out at nursing homes and tutoring little Shirley Ebo in reading.
This funky, sometimes outrageous, and always very human book is about how the only son of a weirdo learns what a wizard his father really was--after it's too late. On the way to witnessing that understanding, we get to watch this duo's precarious relationship in a place with "a gene pool so shallow that it wouldn't take a Dr. Scholl's insert to keep one's soles dry."
To be consistently funny is a great gift, but to be funny and cynical and empathetic all at the same time is George Singleton's special gift. As Candler Hunt of Olsson's Books and Records, Washington D.C., has said, "This is not your mother's Southern fiction."
About the Author
George Singleton lives in Dacusville, South Carolina, and teaches writing at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. His short stories appear regularly in national magazines--the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, Zoetrope, Playboy--and literary journals--the Southern Review, Shenandoah, the Georgia Review, Yalobusha Review, and many others. He is also the author of These People Are Us and The Half-Mammals of Dixie.