Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Georgia Bottoms: Sweet Tart

Click the cover to "look inside" for a sense of
Childress's breezy, confident prose.
Remember those little candies you couldn't get enough of as a kid, so addictive in their interplay between the first light, smooth sugariness and the sharp intensity underneath?

Well, that's her.  That's Georgia Bottoms, the prostitute with a heart of gold, a mind for business and subterfuge, and a million and one skeletons in her Alabama closet.  If you're a fan of the wild - and often laugh-inspiring - romp, then Mark Childress's latest comic novel (his early Crazy in Alabama might ring a bell) may just offer up the tangy zing you're looking for.

While too much plot might spoil the pudding here, suffice to say that Georgia - charmingly imperfect and stunningly gorgeous and canny as all get out - is up to her pretty little armpits in well-meaning schemes to keep her happy, single life humming along in her tiny Southern hometown.  And she just about gets away with it.  Just about.

But if she did, what would be the fun in that?

Instead, as perhaps you'd expect from a comic novel, Georgia's discombobulations - and her quick-witted recoveries - are our big fat grin-fest. 

Perhaps you're ready for a summery diversion from these cold, gray winter days.  If so, set your disbelief and your judgments aside on that hand-tatted doily atop Georgia's seven-drawered chiffarobe and let the fun begin...

My Action?
Hypocrisy.  No, I'm not going to cultivate it; I'm going to take a good hard look in the mirror, knowing that we all engage in it from time to time, and often do so blissfully unaware of our own folly.

Why?  I've just finished a string of books in which many characters are utter hypocrites.  In this novel, self-contradiction abounds as a source of comic confusion, infusing most of Childress's fictional world and including our lovely Georgia.  And in another recent read, The Tortilla Curtain, T.C. Boyle is clearly creating satire while striving to unveil a protagonist's hypocrisy in a humorous but critical light. 
And I won't begin to tell you about the recent doings of the 'characters' in my own little day to day world...

My conclusion: Hypocrisy is everywhere.  And it ain't ever pretty.  (Although it can be pretty funny to read about...)  And as is true of the characters in Georgia Bottoms, I'm in need of a serious hypocrisy shake-down.  How do I know?   Because I don't think of myself as in possession of one single shred of hypocrisy: That's how I know I'm suspect.

What'll I do?  I'll reflect in writing for a few days in a row.  The goal: To uncover at least a few of my own hypocrisies and set myself on the road to fixing them. 

Just the Gist
Title: Georgia Bottoms
Author: Mark Childress
Genre(s): Comic, Contemporary Fiction
Published: February 23, 2011 (today!)
Pages: 278
Book's Website: http://www.crazyinalabama.com/
Overall rating: ***
Get it at...


MFB in Alabama,
L

FYI for Crazy in Alabama readers: This one's not nearly as violent as his earlier work, and - in my view - Fanny Flagg's comparison of Childress to Flannery O'Connor is utterly unwarranted here.  There's little of the 'grand dame of the Southern Gothic' in evidence, as Georgia Bottoms is an open-hearted, free-wheeling and broadly episodic yarn whereas O'Connor's stories tend toward tight snowballing-toward-catastrophe plotlines with a heaping of black humor on the side.

And in the "Coincidence? I think not." category:  This is the second book this month featuring Gee's Bend, Alabama's famous quilts.  Irene Latham's lovely children's novel ('middle reader' really) Leaving Gee's Bend (my review linked here) features a dirt-poor fictional quilter as its young protagonist, while in this adult novel, the protagonist sells Gee's Bend quilts to help support her utterly mad Little Mama and her far-away son.

2 comments:

Jennifer O. said...

I'm going to have to read this one. I have this vision in my head of all Southern women as prim and proper ladies with nice, flowery dresses. A Southern prostitue? Why, I never!

Laurie said...

But she did!

Do know: This is a frothy comedy, decidedly not one to hold up to intense critical scrutiny. If you're up for such a book, then this could be a fun read for you.

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