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Wednesday, January 16th, 2002



by T R Pearson

Pearson's Polarity

A review by Adrienne Miller

T.R. Pearson's bold new book, his eighth, is as ribald and buoyant as his readers have come to expect (he's the author of the 1985 classic A Short History of a Small Place and, most recently, Blue Ridge). Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Pearson's novel brings together a porn-obsessed and barely functioning local named Clayton, who, in a supermarket check-out line epiphany, decides his name is now "Titus," and the local sheriff Ray Tatum (whom we've previously met in Blue Ridge). Ray, who's got problems of his own (the girlfriend is only the beginning), enlists Clayton, who has become a clairvoyant of sorts, to help him find a missing girl, the daughter of the hideous, frisee-obsessed yuppie Dunns from Dayton, Ohio. (The gleefully cruel Dunn descriptions are some of the most delightful passages in Polar.) Other members of this grotesque cast are so outrageous they could have been created by the great Barry Hannah. Narrated by a guy who speaks in syntactically baroque sentences ("His sister saw fit, by way of rejoinder, to douse her brother with a foamy dollop of spit that he'd taken as cause to uncork a stream of accomplished profanity as preamble to lunging across the breadth of that Sable and falling upon her") and who has a habit of veering off into mad, go-nowhere tangents, Polar is not a particularly controlled book, and is occasionally annoying, but it does confirm that T.R. Pearson is one of the few truly odd and original voices in American fiction.

Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.

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