A lively redneck romance with out-of-the-headlines currency.
Purvis Driggers isn’t what you’d call the most solid of citizens in the swampy South Carolina lowlands. Not yet 30, he thinks like a codger. He also swears with the avidity of a heretic and the fluency of a poet, and Cooper (Humanities/College of Central Florida) adds much entertainment value to an already entertaining tale with the blasphemies of Purvis and his trailer-park coterie: “Jesus’ striped ass!” “Baby Jesus in a biscuit.” “Oh, Jesus on a root.” An accidental encounter with Aristotle has smartened Purvis up a touch (“I’m mostly a blunt tool,” he remarks, “but sometimes I can be sharpened up. Ockham the Razor.”), but he’s still a chump. As Cooper’s picaresque tale opens, Purvis is smack in the middle of a breaking-and-entering job that goes wrong from the start, and that convinces him that there’s a G-man in his future. Purvis is not just paranoid but also lovelorn, for out in the tangled woods he’s seen his siren, a sturdy, desperate woman by the sonorous name of Martha Umphlett, and his heart has beaten differently ever since. Martha, for her part, would rather be anywhere but there; only a fantastically obese mother with failing health keeps her down on the farm. A triangle forms in the person of a hirsute monk who actually does think complete philosophical thoughts—and the situation even threatens to square up by the presence of a ghostly “green man” out in the woods. Things don’t quite work out as anyone expects, and besides, as will happen in small communities, there are unexpected genealogical mysteries to work out as well. But for all that, as well as for an explanation of the “purple Jesus” of the title, you’ll want to read Cooper’s rollicking tale, which has elements of the hero quest, echoes of ancient mythology and some resolutely modern moments of extreme violence.
Margaret Mitchell it’s not, but Cooper’s sometimes tender tale of love and confusion is a pleasure to read.