Daniel Woodrell (1998) Tomato Red; (2006) Winter's Bone.
Posted by celticman on Thu, 25 Apr 2013
Both of these are short books. I read Tomato Red in about three hours. Winter's Bone is about the same length. Both are situated in small Missouri towns, but in Winter's Bone Ozak is almost a backwood identity, and Ree Dolly Jessup is part of that crazed religion of don't tell and take care of your own kin. It's told in the third person. Here's how it starts: Ree 'Dolly stood at break of day on her cold front steps and smelled coming flurries and saw meat. Meat hung from trees across the creek. The carcasses hung pale of flesh with a fatty gleam from low limbs of saplings in the side yards.'
Ree is hungry, her little brothers are hungry, but when Harold aged 8 asks some of that meat 'She twisted until he bore up under the pain. “Never. Never ask for what ought to be offered.” ' It's a make-do world, but when Jessup her dad goes missing and puts the house they live in and the land they depend on up as a bond for appearance at court she has a few days to find him -dead or alive. The film of the same name lifts her odysseys straight from the book and the language follows suit. The earlier book Tomato Red is written in the first person. Tomato Red is the colour of Jamalee's hair. The narrator meets them when he smashes his way into a rich man's house and full of crank falls asleep. Jamalee and his beautiful brother Jason tie him to a chair and play the owners of the house. Only when the police come and all three scamper does Sammy realise he's been duped. The chapters are easy bites a few pages long. Here's how it starts. 'You're no angel, you know how this stuff comes ot happen: Friday is payday and it's been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since your fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin' down with a miserable bluesy beat and there's two girls millin' about that probably can be had but they seem to like certain things and crank is one of those certain things...' As you can see the first sentence goes on forever and that's not even half way through forever. What it's got in common with Winter's Bone is white trash lives that are car crashes and big dreams that only rich people can afford. Social realism coshes you and you know it's goin to end badly because shit lives run on rails. Winter's Bone is perhaps the more mature work. Woodrell puts you in that time and place and lets you stew. It's voyeurism, but in good writing you can't afford to look away.