CBR #69 – Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mannabis

Give Us A Kiss by Daniel Woodrell

They say write what you know.  Which is why all of my books are about sad-bastard masturbators who murder people who aggravate them.  I don’t know Woodrell or his legend.  You kind of want to believe he’s this sort of Hillbilly Hemingway, an Ozark twanging Shakespeare whittling off this noodles from the exploits of his family and friends.  So when this one features a writer returning to his roots after his poet wife cheats on him, it seems a little on the nose.

Of course, in lesser coastal parables, the author would have taken off all his clothing, and gone off to screw a coed while writing a brilliantly scathing novel about chronic masturbators with daddy issues.  Here, Doyle Redmond steals his wife’s Volvo and drives it to his parents house where he and his father, General Jo, repaint it. He’s then tasked with finding his big brother Smoke, and convincing him to turn himself into the law.  Smoke’s holed up with a big-tittied woman and her daughter, Niagra, who aspires to be a Hollywood actress. Smoke plans to buy his way out of prison with a big weed score, and convinces his brother to help him, offering him money to write the novel he’s always wanted to. Niagra’s being a sexy teen doesn’t hurt matters. And Doyle is convinced that living outlaw will make his writing better.  More authentic.  Give him purpose as it were.

I liked it but I didn’t, because it’s a very sparse tale and most of it is filled with Doyle’s pontificating about his artisanship.  If it is as I suspect, Woodrell is kind of throwing a big ol’ “Here’s yer fuckin’ Portnoy’s Complaint, y’all fuckin’ highbrow cockfisters.”  It’s essentially the same plot you’d expect on your prototypical New Yorker Summer Reading List, only deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar and served by a carny with three teeth.  Maybe I’m just overdosing on Woodrell, and so the bloom is off the rose.  Maybe I shouldn’t have started with the newer stuff first, The Outlaw Album, and Winter’s Bone, and The Death of Sweet Mister.

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