Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture

Tito Perdue, Author Baskerville Publishers $18 (222p) ISBN 978-1-880909-24-9
The cynicism and drastic rejection of the modern that pervaded Perdue's Lee and The New Austerities are less evident in this lyrical but ironic novel, a haunting portrait of an Alabama farmer that begins in the 1870s and ends with his dying moments in 1936. Ben, the protagonist (and grandfather of the title hero of Lee), leaves his half-demented widower father, clerks in a dry goods store, keeps a hive of bees, works as a spelling teacher, goes whoring and then stumbles into marriage with a Betty, a land-rich woman. As a farmer struggling to feed six children, Ben takes a second job as a mailman, coping with robbers, drought, floods and debt, as well as with his independent-minded wife. In a strong, expressive, oddly musical style, Perdue magically evokes an Alabama of still smoldering volcanoes, red clay, windmills and ramshackle towns where horse-drawn buggies mingle with automobiles. Ben, whose gumption and misguided cleverness land him into misadventures, seems a Forrest Gump-like innocent at the novel's outset, but Perdue wryly charts his protagonist's growing maturity and breadth of vision. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/1994
Release date: 10/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
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