JOLLY by John Weston
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This is an exceptional first novel, and it is the kind of novel which needs endorsement to find the readers it deserves, probably not as many as one could wish. The only comparison that comes readily to mind is James Agee. John Weston, who has as genuinely creative a talent, has succeeded in transfixing a boyhood in a small southwestern town without blurring any of the margins. There are visually fresh, impressionable moods as the retrospective eye spins back over the landmarks in the town: the statue of Theodore Roosevelt in the center; the ""general store shrinking with age;"" the school and its locker room full of raw, youthful spirits and an insatiable sexual curiosity; and in particular Meaders Mortuary where Jolly and his closest friend, Luke Meaders, spend a good deal of time. There are also marvelous scenes in what is actually a loose-jointed chronicle: Jolly spending a sunlit afternoon with his girl in a pine clearing; or playing the organ in Death Row for an old lady unattended for three days in her casket; or big time, small town Saturday nights; or a trip across the border to a Mexican whore. Throughout, however, there is a new penny brightness to this currency of youth, namely innocence and inexperience jostled by some of the sterner realities: loss, when Jolly's girl is appropriated by Luke; naked bitterness-- that of his older brother, Jamie, a wild one; and finally death when Luke is killed driving the ambulance. And the close of the book when Jolly has to take care of Luke on the tilted steel table (""Now you're all sewed, sealed and screwed... Get it Luke? You've really been screwed this time, buddy"") will be well remembered. Mr. Weston's reconnaissance of a time and a place seems very true and unretouched and it ranges from lovely stretches of lyricism to devastating , decisive moments. It is a book of both unquestionable charm and character.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1965
Publisher: McKay