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Friday, December 28, 2012

Tangled Up In Kudzu

This bookworm is semi-evangelical when considering which books to give as gifts. There's even a taxonomy (no laughing!) of sorts in my head:

1.) A book worth discussing with others.
2.) A book worth recommending to someone vetted as a discerning reader.
3.) A book worth buying as a gift for someone I care about.

While shopping for readers in my family this season, I realized Tom Franklin's "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" (2010) had in fact ascended to level three in my taxonomy. Though I finished it almost two years ago, it has remained with me. And my wife, the person I most rely on vis-a-vis steps one and two in the taxonomy, shares my passion for Franklin's tale of two men sharing a deep history.

Novels squarely facing how black and white people in the U.S. consistently miss each other are, in my experience, pretty rare. What was the last book you read that did this well? Often, I'll turn to non-fiction when looking for this kind of reading. "Crooked Letter..." not only nails this charged subject many of us avoid, it engages a receptive reader emotionally, without cheap manipulation. This novel works in a big way because it's near impossible to remain in your head while reading it - you're compelled to examine your heart.

Now about the title of this post. If you get around to reading this wonderful book, let's talk about all the kudzu, OK? That will mean you're joining me on step one of my taxonomy. I'd welcome that.

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