Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Winter's Bone (copy)

Among a small group at Northwest, chatter is occurring around the characteristics of the “dirty south” or “rough south” genre in American literature. Two English professors discussed Harry Crews, father of the genre, enough to request the book Feast of Snakes. Set in Mystic, Georgia, this southern horror story centers around a fallen high-school athlete, Joe Lon Mackey, and the craziness of the annual Rattlesnake Roundup.

Also known as “grit lit,” another instructor loves Mississippian, Larry Brown. Every so often, I have a curious student ask about a Brown title and he explains the “grit lit” expression. Of course, I am in awe. Not necessarily because he knows the term, but the motivation to read an author the instructor casually mentioned during a lecture.

I have spoken separately with a husband and wife teaching team who love Missouri author, Daniel Woodrell. He excites me too, since he is writing actively in the genre. Both Crews and Brown have gone to the great double wide in the sky. Winter’s Bone by Woodrell is one of his best.

Ree Dolly is in charge of a wayward family. Her mother spends her days by the potbelly staying warm and mumbling. Her father is eating three squares under the supervision of the Missouri Correctional Department. Her two younger brothers are suffering under quilts and eating the same ole grits Ree cooks daily.

Today is a little harder on the family’s stomachs. Across the creek hangs venison curing in the open air. They live in a hollow in the Ozarks surrounded by kin. Little Harold makes the mistake when he asks if they will offer any to the family. Ree is quick to turn his ear and say, “Never. Never ask for what ought to be offered.”

After the boys’ meager breakfast, they are sent off to the bus stop and Ree begins her daily chopping of wood. The snow slaps her in the face as she dreads the washing that will have to hang in the house to dry.

Within an hour the boys are returning to the house in the back of a cop car. Ree greets the officer with a quick, “They didn’t do nothin’!” and is reassured they did not. School has been cancelled. The policeman, an old friend of her father’s, has something to tell her before he leaves.

“Jessup’s out on bail and I can’t locate him. Girl, you better find him by November 8, or you will lose the house, barn and timbre acres if he don’t show. He signed them over”

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