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In the Company of Greatness
on March 6, 2004
This is a limpid, beautiful story, wonderfully told. The whole setting exemplifies Southern Gothic from the word go: "The town itself is dreary; not much is there except the cotton-mill, the two-room houses where the workers live, a few peach trees, a church with two coloured windows, and a miserable main street only a hundred yards long."
I was hooked by the beginning, evoking dilapidation, isolation, heat, distress and latent fear/weirdness. Much has been written on McCullough's "lover and beloved" theme, well explored here. The characters are an unforgettable collection of weirdos, still, somehow, typically American; the descriptions are poetic. In general the writing rings true, is economic yet lyrical - nothing is wasted.
Great as "The Great Gatsby", in its way. Much better than "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". It lives up to its title, truly a "ballad" - a songlike story. And the ballad of the mixed-race chain gang that ends it ties the story to the South.
I was sorry to finish it! Utterly compelling.