I subscribe to things. That’s what I do. When I was promised free books by Netgalley, I subscribed. I had no idea that I was about to be blessed with an email offer to read “a literary triumph from ‘the next great American writer.’” Oh… my… God.
Not only is Benjamin Whitmer “‘the next great American writer’” but, in the lede of the email, we’re told that he’s written his “literary triumph” “in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown.”
At first, I thought it was some hack publicist at Simon & Schuster hanging this albatross around the dude’s neck:
“Hey, he writes about rednecks… let’s compare him to Larry Brown and Cormac McCarthy! Hell, let’s say he’s better than Faulkner!”
“Ah, forget it. Let’s just stick with Brown and McCarthy.”
But visit his website, and behold! He’s wallowing in his hubris there. Why, he’s up for all sorts of Frenchie awards: Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, Prix des Balais d’or 2013, and Le Festival International du Film Policier de Beaune. Fancy!
My novel, Shake Loose the Dust From Thy Shoes and Trod Off On a Vast Country Road in Search of Whiskey and Meaning: An Allegory, is better. My protagonist, Toad, has syphilis AND a meth addiction. Toad keeps his girlfriend, Rose, locked up in the bedroom during the day. She doesn’t mind. Toad and Rose beltwhip each other for fun before heading off to the Pentecostal church to speak in tongues. Then she heads over to the truckstop to do some light whoring before Toad clubs her customers with an ax handle. The bodies of dead truckers are stacked like cordwood beneath the floorboards of their shotgun shack. The sheriff comes by on occasion to scratch his head at Toad’s collection of big rigs, parked higgledy-piggledy on his weed-choked lawn next to his collection of lawn jockeys and rat-infested living room furniture. The couple finally gets caught in the act, and Toad and Rose end up being electrocuted together (she sits in his lap, just like in that Bruce Springsteen song!).
My novel won the Prix de Pain au Beurre et du Vin from the Ligue Française des Intellectuels at their annual conference in the Gare du Nord rail station in Paris. I wear the medal around my neck while I write. It’s as big as a dinner plate. The reflection off it once brought down a small aircraft, setting its wing on fire.
I AM MELVILLE! Who are you, Whitmer? Larry Brown? Cormac McCarthy? I am HAWTHORNE, fucker! And TWAIN! With a smattering of Thomas Wolfe, Katherine Anne Porter, Robert Penn Warren and Tennessee Williams! But mainly MELVILLE! Fall on your knees before my GODLIKE PROSE! Tremble!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must enjoy my favorite beverage–a mixture of Jim Beam, Southern Comfort and Rose’s Lime Juice served in a one-quart Mason jar, best served cold with a half-dozen hand-rolled, shag-tobacco smokes while singing the Carter Family’s “Worried Man Blues.”