CRUM by Lee Maynard


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A short first novel about growing up deprived in Appalachia that--despite all its sex and profanity--is a curiously juiceless read. If you wanted to write about a West Virginia town where the football team hasn't got enough pairs of shoes to go around, where meat is a rarity and some kids have never tasted beef, where youthful high-jinks include blowing up outhouses with dynamite for the thrill of seeing the contents exploded all around, where the three things everyone has in common are poverty, ignorance, and sex, you might hesitate to invent so heavy-handed a name as Crum. But Crum is, in fact, the actual name of an actual West Virginia town--which could be poignant if the author didn't milk it for all it's worth by repeating the name Crum as many as three or four times per paragraph in the opening pages of the book. The teen-aged narrator lives in a shed built on the back of his aunt and uncle's shack. When he's not watching boys stick their hands up girls' skirts or worrying about being blamed and beaten for some prank, he dreams about getting out, escaping from brutishness and monotony and into the wider world. The reader rejoices when at last he leaves town--but up until then, the story manages to be sordid without much art, anger, energy, or even interest. Chapter Eight begins, ""One of the first things you noticed about Benny Musser was that he liked to play with his dick."" Benny is a minor character, yet the entire chapter is devoted to his masturbation and exhibitionism, as are additional pages throughout this 142-page novel. Obviously familiar with a world that may be too little known, Maynard seems to have the potential for insight; as sadly limiting as towns like Crum can be to grow up in, though, the novel Crum offers an even more limited view.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket Books