Monday, March 17, 2014

Southern Gothic

Though I was unable to attend our March 5 discussion of Coleman Dowell's notorious 1977 novel, Too Much Flesh and Jabez, I did recently finish it. So I am taking the liberty of sharing a capsule review, in hopes it will encourage others who have read the book but were not at the meeting to do likewise.

While I found large chunks of the novel confusing and frustrating, I'm still glad I read it. I might even reread it at some point down the (country) road, if only to try to figure out some of what the author was aiming for. But the lurid promise of the title, so vividly expressed by the cover art on the edition we read, was not really fulfilled—though, upon reflection, that might be a good thing for those like me who have recently experienced cardiovascular issues! 

Beyond that, I would add that Dowell's setting and approach remind me quite a bit of the French-American author Julien Green (1900-1998).  It's been nearly 20 years since I read his Each Man in His Darkness, which I found in the remainders section of the 19th Street Olsson's Bookstore alongside his less impressive Moira.  I still remember being caught up the feverish world of the former novel, and feeling both disappointed and relieved to reach its end. 

Though I wouldn't recommend either book to someone not already well-versed in, and appreciative of, Southern Gothic literature, Green's style does fall into the well-worn category of "If you like that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you'll like!" 

Which, come to think of it, might be a fitting comment about Dowell, as well.   

Cheers, Steve

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