Body Parts

Jere Hoar, Author
Jere Hoar, Author University Press of Mississippi $30 (286p) ISBN 978-1-57806-019-1
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Spanning the last 60 years, the 11 stories in this first collection from veteran Mississippi journalist and attorney Hoar use tall-tale wit and fantasy to revisit a familiar deep South wracked by poverty (physical and spiritual), heat waves and old-fashioned Protestant lunacy. In one story, the locals' fondest hope is winning a lawn mower derby; in another, a high-school senior pins his future on a Pepsi-Cola scholarship. In ""Tell Me It Hasn't Come to This,"" a widow waves at passing cars, praying for a breakdown to bring a stranger to her door. Comparisons to O'Connor are unavoidable for a Southern writer so enamored of the ticky-tack grotesque: a perpetually horny office boy, who works in a print shop staffed entirely by women and war rejects, is mangled by machinery, while his father returns from the Pacific disappointingly unscathed; a backsliding evangelist schoolteacher wears a blindfold but can't elude the tempting sounds and smells of his female charges. Hoar has a gift for describing characters' foibles and features (eyes, for instance, can be ""goaty,"" ""chocolate as Goo-Goo clusters"" or ""red-hawed""). Mostly, Hoar's characters are enamored of the truth--until they are forced to swallow it. Ranging from the relatively straightforward (a farmer's wife wants to borrow money from Eleanor Roosevelt) to the phantasmagorical (an ex-wrestler collects human eyes), this atmospheric, often very funny collection is a welcome introduction to an already accomplished writer. (Nov.)
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