Friday, January 30, 2009

The World Made Straight

Yesterday, after a necessary trip to the recycling center, the P.O., and the grocery, I came home and frivoled. I lay on the sofa by the fire and read Ron Rash's The World Made Straight -- a book that's been awaiting me for months.

It's beautifully written, as are all of RR's books, but, for me, the bonus is that it's set right here in Madison County -- and the names and the settings and the people are oh so familiar.

So familiar that I'm very glad I finished Birdie's book already. Rash's Travis and Dena bear a whole lot of similarity to my Calven and Prin. But then, we are writing about the same place, even if I call it Marshall County.

Possibly my favorite supporting character is the cold-bloodedly vicious Carlton Toomey -- the marijuana grower and drug dealer who puts on an ignorant hillbilly act when talking with the big-city drug dealers, but can actually speak Standard English and enjoys doing crossword puzzles. Oh, and he sings gospel with an angel's voice.

Toomey is a pretty horrible person but he's a fine example of the fact that few people are completely good or completely bad.

The historical fact of the Shelton Laurel Massacre plays a major part in this story. Our county gained the title Bloody Madison during the Civil War mainly because people's sympathies were divided. The mountain folk, for the most part, were not slave holders and, seeing the war as a rich man's war, wanted no part of it. No matter -- when NC declared for the South, many were conscripted, others hid out, thus setting the stage for a neighbor against neighbor, even brother against brother struggle.

And as Rash's book points out, memory lingers.

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Nancy M. said...

Vicki, that sounds like a book I must get - I'm right now half way through "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski which has taken me longer to read than usual but it's a wonderful book. I have waiting in the wings "Plum Spooky" by Janet Evanovich - wonder what goofiness her grandmother will be into in this story!

Speaking of the Shelton Laurel Massacre, I saw the play at SART at Mars Hill College a couple of years ago and it was wonderful. Would recommend it to anyone if it comes back.

Unknown said...

Vicki - I read TWMS last year when Martha Abraham at Ponder Cove recommended it. I loved Travis' description of fishing in Caney Creek - it reminded me so much of Big Pine Creek which I am completely in love with. I spoke with Chuck Durden yesterday - he told me you warned him about the dog chasing mule. I can't wait to get back up on that ridge. Sometimes I Google Earth it just for dose of green and air amidst the snow and cold that will be here for several more weeks.

Vicki Lane said...

Nancy, I believe you'd like it. He does take some liberties with place in Madison County but the feel is right on.

Liz, actually, she's a donkey, not a mule. I wanted to let Chuck know in case she ever strayed down his way.

We had a bit of blowing snow this morning and it's fairly chilly -- but nothing like up North.

Pat in east TN said...

After reading SERENA, I'm hooked on Ron Rash, and now you mentioning this book, well, it's going to be next from my TBR pile.

Vicki Lane said...

Pat, Don't miss RR's Saints at the River --another good one.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hi Vicki, I've had the Shelton Laurel Massacre on my mind for years and started a poem sequence after reading Ron's poem Shelton Laurel in Asheville Poetry Review a few years back. Right now it's only 4 poems long--in the voice of the sister to whom Ron's poem is directed. They are in Marijo Moore's anthology @ women writing about war. I'd like to go on with it, working in some of the historical data in this sister's voice. At one point, we had talked about interweaving poems, Ron and I, but that didn't work ou.

Vicki Lane said...

The SL Massacre is surely a fertile ground for poets and writers -- I particularly enjoyed Ron's look at the side of the "bad" guys in the story.

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Toe Valley Trail Project said...

I, too, enjoyed TWMS which we read recently in book club. Did anyone else notice the Christ between the two thieves image at the end of the book?

Vicki Lane said...

It's been a while and I don't remember if I did notice that (though as an old English major, I certainly should have!) That's a nice thing about book clubs -- lots of people to pick up on goodies like this.

My IN A DARK SEASON has a subplot packed with allusions to the ODYSSEY but I've not heard anyone say they noticed it. On the other hand, I've had folks comment on symbolism I hadn't realized I was using. Such fun!

Anonymous said...


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Vicki Lane said...

Yes, you may. Please make it clear which material is from my site,