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It is 1926, and Lillian Boxfish, mid-20s and ambitious, arrives in Manhattan, where she lands a job working for the greatest department store in the city, R. H. Macy’s. That famed emporium hires her as a copywriter, and within five years she is the highest-paid advertising woman in the United States.

In his Preface to Love Songs For A Country Lane, country music icon Chris Gantry writes: “Grant King was a thoughtful dreamer, a ponderer, like the statue of The Thinker. Now here he is a zillion light years later, still the dreamer with a love for the process that’s never left him, an elder statesman of the world with a collection of his poetry and poetic songs.” 

After finishing the last pages of Libertarians On The Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books (Arcade Publishing, 2016, 259 pages), my first thought was: I am glad I am not a farmer.

When verbally attacked and left speechless by an assailant, who among us has not long afterwards pondered the mot juste that might have left our assailant gasping for breath on the canvas, that perfect riposte that would have left us the winner standing in the ring?

“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

And satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

Then your light will rise in the darkness,

And your night will become like the noonday.”

— Isiah 58:10

The setting of Desperation Road is a short stretch of highway in Mississippi between Magnolia and McComb near the Louisiana state line. It is a rural area and other than the Fernwood Truck Stop and the Armadillo bar, there is nothing of interest ... just closed stores, a bus station and a half-way house. This is where Michael Farris Smith’s characters spend their time in a desperate search for peace or redemption. They are all defeated and bear the scars of their encounters.

In Charles Martin’s novel A Life Intercepted (Center Street Publishers, 2014, 326 pages), college senior Matthew “the Rocket” Rising has everything going for him. He’s one of the best college quarterbacks the gridiron has ever seen, the NFL has made him the number one pick in the draft, and various sports companies are salivating to have The Rocket endorse their products. Best of all, Matthew is married to Audrey, his high school sweetheart, his helpmate and anchor whose love for him seems bottomless. 

In 2011, William Forstchen’s apocalyptic novel, One Second After, appeared on best-seller lists. After reading for review this story of an EMP strike on the United States and the struggles of the residents of Black Mountain, North Carolina, to survive in a world without electricity, my first impulse was to rush to my neighborhood Ingles Market and fill my car with canned goods, dried foods, and medical supplies. This vivid account of death, destruction, and suffering in One Second After scared the hoot out of me.

In Jennifer Frick-Ruppert’s statement of intent at the back of her book, The Legend of Skyco, she states “While this is a story of fiction, I have adhered to the factual information that is available about the Carolinian Algonquins — the names, the cultural customs from historical records and natives of the Southeast, as well as accurate biological detail.”

Just after I bought The Weight of the World, I ran into an old friend of mine who is extremely well-read, and since I knew that he had already read the book and since I value his opinion, I asked, “So, what did you think?”

Having given up listening to the dreadful music and talk shows available in my car radio, last week I popped the first disc of Pat Conroy’s South Of Broad into my CD player. Since that auspicious moment, I have driven around town and countryside besotted by words, loop-legged with sentences, schnockered by syntax, blasted, blitzed, bombed and blotto with language. Were a state trooper to pull me over and administer a roadside test for verbal inebriation, nightfall would find me sleeping off my drunken spree in the local slammer.

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