Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Rough South of J.T. Dockery

The phrase is Gary Hawkins's; the sentiment is mine.

I woke up this morning from a dream that I was at the Family Dollar in Mckee, Kentucky, although I haven't been to the Family Dollar in Mckee in years, and I'm not sure that it's still there.

I woke up this morning thinking I should do a southern gothic type comic or graphic novel, and then remembered that I'm already attempting one in collaboration with Brian Manley (aka Brine Manley aka Eggroll).

I woke up this morning with the Waylon Jennings phrase, "I've always been crazy, but it's kept me from going insane," echoing in my brain.

I woke up this morning, but I did not get myself a beer. However, the future is indeed uncertain, and a southern gothic style end is always near.

My front tracks are headed for a cold water well, and my back tracks are covered with snow. Which is odd, being that it's the middle of July. In context, see, but it ain't odd. Maybe it's Christmas in July. Maybe it's Christmas in July with Nat & Dean. I enjoy country drives on the most obscure of country roads with Dwight , the Stones, the Memphis Jug Band, James Brown, and Waylon & Willie and the boys.

I declare a moratorium on comparing authors of southern lineage to either William Faulkner and/or Flannery O'Connor.

Speaking of July, and the south, it's been a summer of Larry Brown. Seems like my introduction to Brown was the aforementioned Manley bringing over the film Big Bad Love when the author still lived and breathed among us. I followed up that exposure with reading his first collection of short stories, Facing the Music. So far this summer I've dove in and done read almost all of his fiction (currently reading his posthumously published Miracle of Catfish). For those not initiated into the cult of Larry Brown, he wrought tales set primarily in the backwater realms of Mississippi he himself inhabited. Characters drive while drinking, usually from coolers full of beer in their trucks (mostly) and cars. With direct sentences, Brown presented humanity on the edge, melodrama without melodrama, cynicism without cynicism, hope without hope, humor and heartbreak. Singlehandedly, his novella length short story "92 Days," made for the best southern fried version of Bukowsi what can be got while still ringing 100 percent true Larry Brown. He taught me and Manley about "the gloam."

It's not just been a summer of Larry Brown. For some reason, and I couldn't think to why or how the avoidance, up 'till this most recent summer never read Harry Crews. Hell, his name was even invoked in a mighty fine review of my band, the Smacks!, with the aforementioned Manley.
It’s exactly what would happen if a couple of retarded guys in a Harry Crews novel formed a band in between burning down the barn and fucking a goat in the ass.

One thing leads to another, and a pallie handed me a collection of some early novels and essays that sparked me on a trip of checking out more books. The Gypsy's Curse, Cars, This Thing Don't Lead to Heaven, The Knockout Artist, Scar Lover. Crews, a prolific sumbuck therefore I'm still only scratching the surface, but from what I can tell, he is as clear and direct as Brown in his prose. Crews's characters are cartoonishly, in a fine way, off the wall almost always in the most surreal of situations. In another life, Crews woulda made a helluva comic book writer. The sleight of hand with Crews is that no matter how ridiculous the situations and characters a reality still yet pervades. Crews was born in south Georgia and relocated to Florida (the folks in his books are more often not leaving Georgia for Jacksonsville), and that geography is as meaningful to his work as Mississippi is to Brown.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I made my peace with Gram Parsons this summer. I used to, in reaction to my take on his fans, whom I regarded as being singer/songwriter freaks who could not drink from the here stands the glass cup of country music without a hippie screen, leaving out such figures as Hank Thompson, George Jones, Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, etc. in the process, whereas I regarded the likes of Parsons as an end of country music, a music that could not, I figured, be beheld without those forefatherly figures. That said, I now look and see that Parsons himself, not his latter day fans, upheld that totem of influence slap dab in the middle of the hippie epoch, and put his band in Nudie suits in a time and place when country wasn't cool, and it wasn't "cool" to those long hairs who could not abide a steel guitar, and the Eagles didn't exist, and there weren't no "outlaw country," and what he did, he did it with moxy. And despite the legend, despite the latter day adulation of Parsons, he himself was as insolent and punk rock about his love for country as I was in my dismissal of him, so I give him credit, and put him in context, and, as I said, made my peace with the poor little rich boy. "Still Feeling Blue" is as good a honky tonk tune as any.

This all reminds me of last summer. Which was a summer of Charles Willeford. But that, like the guy in the Conan movie sayeth, is another story.



Catclaw Theatre said...

You know our mutual pal Ellen studied writing under the tutelage of Mr. Crews in Florida, right?

I dreamed of Ed once when I was having one of my extended stays at the Glyndon Hotel. In the dream, he was milling around the hallways, staring dolefully and not speaking. Now that I come to think about it, it was very much like the ghost twins in the hotel hallways in The Shining.

J.T. Dockery said...

In the dim recesses of my mind, I had some notion that Ellen was a Crews fan, but now it all comes back to me. I forgot to remember to forget but then I forgot and now I remember.