Where Crenshaw blames society, readers should blame Hall.



It’s hard to tell which is dumber: this unfunny satire or the redneck protagonist who narrates it.

Imagine Jeff Foxworthy with a mean streak of cultural elitism. Or perhaps a Deliverance sketch on Saturday Night Live, on which comedian-writer Hall (Things Snowball, 2003) was once a cast member. The novel purports to be the memoir of Otis Lee Crenshaw, whose life seems to circle around serving jail time on a series of outlandish charges, marrying a series of six women named Brenda (actually five; he marries one of the Brendas twice) and writing an occasional country song inspired by his sorry existence. Interspersed with the accounts of the courtship of Brenda(s) are court transcripts from cases in which Crenshaw has insisted on defending himself, employing arguments that defy legal logic. The plot never really builds or goes anywhere, mainly serving as an excuse for allegedly humorous observations on trailer-park culture, jailhouse society, white-trash women with zeppelin-sized breasts and the immortals of country music (where Crenshaw—or perhaps Hall—proves less than reliable as a critical historian). Along the way, the narrator achieves a reconciliation of sorts with his estranged father, Jack Daniels Crenshaw, a man who (wouldn’t you know it?) likes to drink. The narrative also involves itself with conspiracy theories concerning the conviction of James Earl Ray (murderer of Martin Luther King, and boyfriend of Brenda #1) and the rise of an unworthy country star named Narvel Crump (boyfriend of Brenda #2). The early stages of the novel suggest that Hall might give the book some comedic bite by sinking teeth into the thematic meat of class consciousness and the American dream, but as it proceeds to settle for easy laughs at obvious targets, the mirth quickly wears thin. What might have worked for five or ten minutes on TV can’t sustain itself for a couple hundred pages.

Where Crenshaw blames society, readers should blame Hall.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-349-11818-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Abacus/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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