Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cracker Queen

I've been out of work for about a week now due to a mysterious illness that has creeped into my foot and lower leg- it swells, it's discolored, and it tingles like it's asleep and then hurts like hell in turns. I've barely managed to drag my ass to school all week, and in fact, I missed a day because of having to go to the hospital, and I missed a day of work because of having to have tests AND because the medication that I was given makes me 1) pee a lot 2) feel drunk 3) nearly makes me comatose. I can't really function when I take this medication- in fact, I haven't taken it yet today so that I can write a blog and do some homework.

So what have I been doing with all my time? Homework and reading new books. My mother, bless her, bought over a hundred dollars worth of sale books from the bookstore that enslaves me, and thus has kept me in good reading graces.

A side note about my mother and books: she marathons them. Even when I was a child, if my mother had a book in her hand, it didn't get put down until it was over unless it was a bad read or John Grisham. (She can't deal with John Grisham very well, and as she says: "he writes for people who have no imagination. I don't need him to spend three paragraphs on the wallpaper of a room. He's just like any other damn man for all the other damn men out there who don't have a clue unless they can see it. I'm female- I can create things in my head.") Nothing existed for her until that book was finished, and then she'd return back to reality. She's never read the same book twice. So, I know, when Mom buys lots of books, chances are good that after she reads them, they're going to end up at my house. She loves this, because it clutters up my house and not hers. I love this because I don't have to scrounge up the money to buy them. Plus, this time she bought two books specifically for me: M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman (who is my favorite author) and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

But, when I went to her house last Saturday, the first book that she put in my hand was neither of these Anonymous A-specific reads. It was The Cracker Queen by Lauretta Hannon- I had recommended it to her because someone (a customer, I think) had recommended it to me, and my mother loves Southern writers. So, I sat down beside her, and she handed me this book, saying: "I really think you need to read this. It's so good- it's funny and sad, and just a damn good read. She reminds me of you a lot." To this I replied: "Okay, I'll give it a try, but you know I don't like Southern writers." (There are a few exceptions, like my dear Margaret Mitchell, but they're few and far between.)
I sat it down in favor of beginning M is for Magic... but I couldn't keep my eyes off the cover of The Cracker Queen. I sat for a moment looking at the one in my hand and the one on the coffee table that was trying to cast a spell on me, and finally, I gave in, and announced to no one in particular: "Oh, to hell with it. I'll read that one first. They're all gonna get read anyway." And thus, despite my doubts about a Southern writer, I began The Cracker Queen.
I admit, I had a moment of doubt when I read the words "Scarlett should've been run out of town on a rail a long time ago." (I intend to write to her about this judgement of character.) But, I couldn't put it down. Indeed I finished it that night in about four hours. It's the story of her family, and sometimes it goes back to a time before she was born in order to establish a cause for an action or dysfunction. There's equal amounts of humor and hurt in her stories- such as how her mother manages to get her school clothes every year, her Crazy Aunt Carrie, how her mother and musician father fall apart and away from each other and yet still manage to find a way to be together, she and her father playing psychic games, and her mama buying cartons of cigarettes to throw out on the side of the road to the chaingangs. It's a damn good story, and it's exceptional, in my opinion, for Southern literature.
I'm sure there's someone out there that would defend Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor, and William Faulkner and how great they are- and they might be, if you're the sort that likes literature to put you to sleep. This story, however, will not let you sleep, and in fact, it demands to be finished now. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Way to go, Lauretta Hannon. It's fantastic.

I'll write about M is for Magic later. Enjoy this youtube video.

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