cover image The Calling

The Calling

Sterling Watson. Peachtree Publishers, $13.95 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-931948-87-9

Blackford ""Toad'' Turlow is an unassuming young Southerner who aspires to be a famous writer. While enduring relative poverty in Florida, Toad works in a convenience store, eats at the Gutbomb and enthusiastically joins a writing seminar taught by his idol, celebrated novelist Eldon Odom. Sitting in the ``egosphere'' of the classroom with Odom's idiosyncratic disciples, including a sexual-device salesman and a Virginia Woolf look-alike, Toad becomes mesmerized by his teacher. But the young man's veneration turns to disenchantment when he observes Odom and his students at rowdy gatherings, where the hard-bitten novelist blithely uses drugs and participates in a gang rape. These sobering experiences impart new depth to Toad's writing, but his relationships with Odom's wife and mistress soon prove dangerously distracting. The author deftly fuses sardonic wit and graphic realism to portray Toad's growing maturity and his depraved idol's downfall. Watson (Weep No More My Brother also vividly renders Odom's repugnant private life, with its share of amorality and casually inflicted malice. (April 1)