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by Tito Perdue

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-880909-24-3

In the same comic vein mined in Lee (1991), Perdue starts spewing irony in the title and lets it flow thickly throughout this fictional biography of a simple man. Ben is one of the many sons of Vernon, an odd man who lives in the country and serves as a source of amusement to others. Ben's simple thoughts always express some deeper meaning. In 1883 he crosses the street for the first time and heads out to visit a neighboring farm: `` `And just how many farms might there not be,' he wondered.'' When he begins school at a late age, Ben is impressed that ``one of the students was already so advanced that she had known to bring her own ink.'' On his first visit to town, leading a goat on a string, he is dizzied by the number of people. Soon he finds employment in a dry goods store, work that satisfies his urge to organize and arrange systems. Eventually he becomes a spelling teacher and marries. Ben and his wife have children; he acquires and loses some land, and he takes a civil service exam, which he considers a very serious matter: `` `I brung my knife,' said Ben....`But I just plan to use it on the pencils, that's all.' '' He is rewarded with a job as a mail carrier. This is not a gripping, fast-moving book. Ben trudges along, making amusing observations and bumbling through. His unknowing commentary generally delivers enough laughs to compensate for the slow-and- steady pace, but occasionally the text is plodding. Without a trace of smugness, Perdue has managed to create a man with few opinions, indeed with almost no interior life. That is no mean feat, although at times it feels like a party trick. A sophisticated but less than compelling look at a dry-as-dust existence.