Honeysuckle, Creosote

William O. Cook, Author Mercury House $9.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-916515-81-2
This is autobiographical Southern short fiction with a thick Louisiana accent. The narrator, Cotton, named for his blond curls, tells a series of stories about his life in the 1940s with a black family. His parents are busy with work, so Cotton is raised by nanny Big Ruby, who weighs 200 pounds, and is ``as black as river-bottom dirt and just as fertile.'' The pieces are brief, more like anecdotes than fully realized stories. Big Ruby tries to squeeze into a mail-order reducing girdle, with painful results, in ``The Madame X.'' A neighbor and another neighbor's pig are the finalists in a contest to determine whose fruit is the biggest in ``Tomatoes.'' In ``Miss Elladee's Strange Baby,'' Cotton hears the tale of an unmarried teacher who gives birth to a hermaphrodite and then decides to join the circus with the child, a potential bearded lady. The emphasis here is on colorful Southern details, and the characters say things like, ``Ya'll look like half-drowned chickens,'' ``She be so ugly she could haunt a house'' and ``You smell like a cheap ho' in church.'' Scenes are broadly drawn, events are quickly and sentimentally resolved, and characters cry repeatedly, on cue. Vivid, but not for sophisticates. Cook teaches dance in Louisiana. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1990
Release date: 09/01/1990
Hardcover - 136 pages - 978-0-916515-91-1
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