Friday, January 16, 2009

One Mississippi

I've said before that I don't like to critique published novels fro two reasons. One, I have failed thus far to get any of my novels published and to therefore criticize someone who is farther along in the game seems crazy. Two, tastes are subjective and just because something did not strike a chord with me doesn't me it won't for you and the last thing I want is to discourage anyone from reading.

But having said that, I do want to start talking about books I've read a bit more . So I've decided to take a certain formulaic look at each and every book I read and post them here.

I'm going to tell you three reasons why you should read each particular book. And three reasons not to. And I'm going to do my best to not spoil any of the plots.

One Mississippi by Mark Childress

published in 2006 by Back Bay Books.

3 Reasons you might like this Book

1) Great characters. The story is told through the eyes of Daniel Musgrove, a teenage boy that is force to move to Mississippi for his last few years of high school. The voice an characterization is dead on as is the portrayal of the secondary characters.

2) Time and setting. The author took me there. He made me feel like I was hanging out in the deep south during the 1970s.

3) The writing. The pace, the flow, the story-telling are all very well done. The scenes build upon each other and layered facets of the novel make this complex story come to life.

3 Reasons you might not like this book

1) Mark Childress is best known for Crazy in Alabama. This book i darker and heavier. The humour is more subtle. Stephen King blurbs on the cover that One Mississippi is the funniest novel he's read in ten years. Sure there are funny moments but trust me when I say Stephen King doesn't read much humor because One Mississippi isn't anywhere near the top of the funny list in things I've read the past decade.

2) Once upon a time I read books purely for entertainment, but since becoming a writer myself I tend to break books down and really study how they are crafted and how the plot is developed. Because of that I often figure out the plot twists and turns earlier than expected. This novel was no exception. I was not surprised by the dark turn towards the end.

3) The book comes across as homophobic, as I'm sure Mississippi in the 70's was, and the big climactic scene at the end felt more in touch with today's headlines than the my notion of the 70s. that is not to say it couldn't have happened then but it still felt felt like too much of a contrast with the rest of the novel.

3 Lines beginning with the 3rd sentence on page 33 of the novel.

It was all wildly expensive, all the money our parents had given us and some of our own, but we paid it and got out of there as fast as we could.

On prom day when we collected our tuxedos, they were a good deal lighter blue than we expected. We distinctly remembered asking for the Royal blue, whereas these tuxedos were ... Sky Blue is what they were.

Normally I'm going to stop there, but this particular novel had an interview with the author at the back and I want to share one quote I gleamed from his answers.

Mark Childress ~ But the best writers -- the ones I'd like to be like -- gather elements from their own lives and filter it through their imagination and all their experience. The aim is to come up with a story that comes closer to the truth than nonfiction, which you can only do by getting inside a character's head.

I love that quote.

So have you read One Mississippi? Or another novel by Mark Childress? Do you agree with him on that quote? Let's talk about something other than fire for at least one post.

And for more book discussion with a variety of authors please visit the BookRoast blog.

21 comments:

Monnik said...

Good review, Travis! I haven't read this book or any by the author, but I do agree with his quote. I think that the best authors do filter their own experiences so that they can get in the heads of their characters.

Stephen Parrish said...

Welcome back to Blogtopia.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I read Crazy in Alabama, but not One Mississippi...

Clare2e said...

I think I feel the same shaky relationship to assessing pub'd writers. Even so, I was doing regular, fat reviews for a review site, but it was getting harder and harder to find my way through. Too much empathy for the effort, even creating work I didn't enjoy.

My answer was to try to be as accurate as I could about what the book's like, so others could decide if it was to their taste. (If you like epic adventures with a misfit band of wisecracking elves and non-stop dragon battles...) All that said, the more I think about it the more I LOVE your idea for a review approach!

If I were to give EVERY book the 3 up and 3 down, then even the wonderful reviews would be limited in their froth factor with ensured even-handedness. Even the not-so-great reads are guaranteed whatever kudos I can find. I might have to steal this notion, Travis, you genius!

David Cranmer said...

You have piqued my interest in ONE MISSISSIPPI.

Janet said...

I like your concept of 3 pros and 3 cons. I might steal it.

Sorry, haven't read any Childress.

Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't read anything by him. But that quote makes me want to.

Cloudia said...

"3 Lines beginning with the 3rd sentence on page 33 of the novel."
3 is SO mystical. 9 (3 threes) is the number of completenes. Holy Bible code, bat man. Interesting idea.
As far as not "getting" a novel published yet. A very good friend, a mentor really, who has published MANY books (Sandol Stoddard) told me that merit is less important than that connection or chance that makes it happen. Especially today, publishing is the province of multi-nationals, and mega-hits. fortunately, self publishing is no longer the humiliating "kiss of death" it used to be. Especially if you start your own imprint, create a pdf, buy ISBN#, hire a printer, prhaps a print-on-demand dealy. Just sharing your work iw what it's all about; and who knows, yours may be one3 of the "out of nowhere" little books that makes it BIG (Celestine prophesy ring a bell? The Shack?)
Glad to see you getting back to "normal," Travis! Aloha-

Barbara Martin said...

I haven't read any books by Mark Childress, but you have a good review and I like the idea of the third line of page 33, etc.

Robin said...

I really like the concept of 3 pros and 3 cons. It made the review more three dimensional than just saying, "It was good - plot summary - read it."

Angie Ledbetter said...

Thanks for the review, and hope this means your stress level is down enough so that you can read. Continued prayer power!

Cheryl Wray said...

This is such an awesome way to review a book. Thanks for the critique! I've never been a huge Mark Childress fan, but I've never read this one so I may give it a try.

May I recommend a current Southern novel that I think you might really like? Have you ever read Rick Bragg; he writes the most amazing memoirs. All Over But the Shoutin' is my favorite, but all of his are good!

I also happen to know Rick and he is a such a cool guy. (I like telling people I'm friends with a Pulitzer Prize winner. LOL Anyway...check him out if you've never read him.)

And, also...I'm off to read your past posts to get an update on you and your family. Praying for you all still.

Cheryl Wray said...

I didn't mean Southern "novel." I meant Southern "author." Duh...

Georgie B said...

I agree with the quote.

My first novel uses quite a few events from my life (as well as certain parts of my job), that I believe makes it more personal than most of what I got stashed away for future use.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Love the quote. I've heard that the first book someone writes (or tries to write) is basically autobiographical, even if they don't realize it. It's that instinct of experience, I guess.

I like the 3/3!

Josh said...

great review man

Rick said...

Now you've given me yet another book to read, Travis. Damn you. :)

laughingwolf said...

not read him, and your critique does not put him on my list, despite the good quote....

pattinase (abbott) said...

Not familiar with him either. I wonder if he appeals more to Southern readers. Certainly putting SOuthern states in his titles makes this likely. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Shauna Roberts said...

This is a great way to talk about a book. I look forward to future ones.

Junosmom said...

Hi Travis, I'm trying to get back to my blog reading after my hospital hiatus with my dad. I like your critique because likely, I'll steer clear of the book right now. I'm not reading "dark" rather need things "light". Not meaning light-weight, just not highlighting dark.

I am reading Cloudia's book right now.