Franklin: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter


Tom Franklin’s narrative power and flair for characterization have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.

[…] letters aren’t the only thing twisted in the rural town of Chabot, Miss., where this story of long-delayed repercussions and revelations takes place.

It is, at heart, the story of the unlikely childhood friendship between Larry Ott, a lonely white boy, and Silas Jones, the poor black son of a single mother.

There’s no lack of mysteries here, and no lack of red flags either, but other mysteries—of character—go unexamined. Why hasn’t Larry, instead of living like a zombie all these years, just left town? And why has Silas, after bigger assignments elsewhere, returned home to a nothing job?

Franklin’s latest novel works not only because of its characters and their believability and depth, and not only because of its deadeye social realism. It works because of the poetic and controlled way the writing plays out on the page and in the mind of the reader. Franklin’s crinkly, nuanced dialogue exerts an irresistible gravitational pull. He pushes minor, supporting characters through the same reality filter he uses to create the aliveness and vitality of his central players.

The Southern atmosphere is rich, but while this novel has the makings of an engaging crime drama, the languid shifting from present to past, the tedious tangential yarns, and the heavy-handed reveal at the end generate far more fizz than pop.

I don’t usually like to compare authors to other authors, but this book has more in common with the writings of John Steinbeck, in particular in the depictions of the exuberance of the natural world amid a poor and deprived human society, than it does with a “crime” novel. What’s more, it has the kind of moral heart that is so beautifully conveyed, with all its tragedy, toughness and hope, by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Doch der Roman funktioniert nicht nur wegen seiner unvollkommenen Protagonisten, der dialektal eingefärbten Sprache und dem vielschichtigen Thema [sic!], sondern auch wegen seines mit ungeschöntem Realismus beschriebenen Handlungsortes, dessen abgerissene, verödete Landschaften in knapp [sic!] und kontrollierten Beschreibungen vor dem Auge des Lesers entstehen. Damit zeigt Franklins Roman Anklänge an das Genre des Southern Gothic. Larrys Haus voller Horrorromane, die heruntergekommene Bar, in der Silas Jones nach getaner Arbeit Zuflucht findet, die penibel gepflegte Werkstatt ohne Kunden – diese Figuren und Orte sind so originell wie authentisch.

Frankling: […] I have never written from – I’m a white guy – I’ve never written from the perspective of a black man before, which, you know, was kind of daunting. I don’t want to try to appropriate anyone else’s voice. It’s not first-person I, but it’s third-person – you know, he. So I’m not really speaking for Silas, but I’m describing and narrating Silas.
But you know, that was nerve-wracking. I wanted to get it right. I didn’t want to offend anyone, but you know, more importantly I wanted to get the characters right. I tried to think, you know, as I thought a black man would think – which, you know, maybe is dangerous for me to do. (interview with Tom Franklin)

Wikipedia: Cultural Appropriation
Wikipedia: Kulturelle Aneignung


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