Posted by: Jeanie F | November 6, 2010

Literary Blog Hop

I was SO excited to learn to The Blue Bookcase’s reviewers have extended the Crazy-for-Books “Blog Hop” concept to “literary” fiction. I have enjoyed getting to learn about new blogs through the Blog Hop, but have found that most participants in the Crazy-for-Books hop tend to review Young Adult, paranormal, chick lit, and other types of books that I rarely read. I have nothing against them, but I like to read about the kinds of books I’m most likely to enjoy myself. Most (but not all) of my reading is in literary or classical genres.

The prompt today is:

Please highlight one of your favorite books and why you would consider it “literary.”

I had to give this a lot of thought, because there are so many to choose from. I’ve finally decided on Paris Trout by Pete Dexter. I’ve reviewed this book before, but not by looking at the literary value. This seems like  good pick because (1) I’ve read it recently, (2) it has stayed on my mind ever since, which I think is one of the marks of true literary fiction, and (3) I thought it fit The Blue Bookcase’s criteria of having ongoing social relevance. Dexter won the 1988 National Book Award for this work.

Trout is truly a villain, but he’s a literary villain in that he  signifies much more than the two-dimensional villains of crime and suspense novels. Paris Trout stands as a metaphor for white society in the deeply segregated, fictional town of Cotton Point, Georgia. In other words, while he prospers from his usurious money lending business through which he lends money to poor blacks, he despises everything about his customers. Further, the consequences for missing a payment on those loans is more than costly, underscoring the swift and terrible violence hanging over the black community’s head at all times. Through his escalating acts of brutality, ultimately resulting in murder, the citizens of Cotton Grove are forced to face their own thinly veiled racism.

Through Harry Seagraves, Trout’s attorney who defends him for the murder of little Rosie Sayers, we see the highly relevant question of personal greed and gain played out against his own sense of fairness. Seagraves is no stock character – he recognizes and is disturbed by this client, but Trout is a prominent businessman in the community. Seagraves doesn’t want to but feels he must represent Trout. Ultimately he recognizes the huge error he has made, but Dexter gets us there as a way of showing the internal struggle we all have between our self-interests and the interests of the community at large.

This book also qualifies as “literary” in the language and imagery. Dexter has a good ear for local dialect and uses it to highlight class and race among his characters. The overall sense of foreboding and evil lies like a thin film over every page of the book. Paris Trout transends the typical murder mystery of, say, John Grishom, through the use of well-handled literary technique.


Responses

  1. I came over from the hop. I read a little of everything and I’m really enjoying this hop for the variety. There are so many good books out there. The discussion is great!

  2. Thoughtful analysis. Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m stopping in via the new hop. I’m very happy to be participating in it this week, too. Love to have you stop by my blog.

  3. Great post! We are glad to have you join our hop.

    Also, I just wanted to say that I love your tag line — very clever.

    Hope you’ve had fun hopping with us this weekend


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