Overview

Carol Dawson's outrageous second novel chronicles the decline and fall of a strange dynasty--from post-frontier Texas to the present day. It's the story of a secret war, of obsession, fear, loathing, and betrayal. But most of all, BODY OF KNOWLEDGE is the story of Victoria Grace Ransom, the story's 600-pound narrator, whose engrossing secret gradually reveals itself in a novel as big as all Texas. "Gorgeously crafted, intelligent and wholly original."--Los Angeles Times Book Review ; "The best novelist to emerge ...
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Body of Knowledge

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Overview

Carol Dawson's outrageous second novel chronicles the decline and fall of a strange dynasty--from post-frontier Texas to the present day. It's the story of a secret war, of obsession, fear, loathing, and betrayal. But most of all, BODY OF KNOWLEDGE is the story of Victoria Grace Ransom, the story's 600-pound narrator, whose engrossing secret gradually reveals itself in a novel as big as all Texas. "Gorgeously crafted, intelligent and wholly original."--Los Angeles Times Book Review ; "The best novelist to emerge from Texas in years."--Texas Monthly. A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB and QUALITY PAPERBACK BOOK CLUB SELECTION.

"The rich owe no one explanations, " the last Ransom says at the beginning of Carol Dawson's vast and entertaining second novel chronicling the decline and fall of a strange dynasty. It's the story of a secret war, of obsession, of fear, loathing, and betrayal. Unfolding an engrossing secret, the plot twists keep readers holding on for dear life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Captivating prose coupled with a rich, multigenerational Texas saga produces a resonant successor to Dawson's highly acclaimed first book, The Waking Spell . Narrator Victoria Grace Ransom named for the British queen owes her 500-pound weight to a case of hypothalmus-damaging measles at age four. Unexposed to radio, TV and newspapers, Victoria has scarcely emerged from the Ransom estate since her birth in 1947. To pass the time, she listens to her black servant, Viola Lewis, tell tales of Ransom family history. A 1908 business partnership and secret adulterous liaisons create a hate-filled bond between the Ransom clan and the Macafees. Victoria's great-aunt Sarah, pregnant with Grant Macafee's child, disappears, and Sarah's brother William sires a baby by Grant's wife, Sophie. ``Dead'' at birth, the baby falls under the ministrations of ``frail and stunted'' great-aunt Mavis, a ``gnomic changling'' and perhaps the most original in a sprawling cast of fascinating characters. As the nearby town of Bernice spreads ``like a gravy stain'' toward the Ransoms' looming white mansion, death and disfigurement ravage succeeding generations. Dawson brilliantly ties up the familial threads at the novel's end. Her labyrinthine plot--a ``potboiler'' in the grandest sense--is transformed by a dark vision and poetic language into a work of the highest literary caliber. Author tour. Sept.
Library Journal
A secret war between the Ransoms and the Macafees has waged for years just outside the town of Bernice, Texas. By the time the last Ransom, Victoria Grace, is born, the body of evidence incriminating and devastating both families has grown as vast as she is destined to become. Eventually weighing 600 pounds, this recluse has gobbled up every delicious morsel of obsession, betrayal, sin, love, and hate that Viola, a loyal black servant, can feed her. In turn, Victoria provides a narrative feast with thick layers of irony, a huge helping of eccentric characters, and thoroughly baked twists of plot. Readers who enjoyed Dawson's first novel, The Waking Spell LJ 9/15/92, will devour Body of Knowledge. It has all the necessary ingredients to place Dawson among the finest of contemporary Southern writers.-Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Donna Seaman
Dawson is a wily storyteller. She beguiles you with precise detail while drawing you into a plot bristling with pointed absurdity and sharp satire. The big, confounding state of Texas is her stage, the setting for both her first novel, "The Waking Spell" 1992, and her second, an idiosyncratic saga about the reclusive and besieged Ransom family. This multigenerational tale of sexual obsession, hypocrisy, racism, deformity, and death begins with, of all things, an ice cube. The year is 1908, and the founding father of the Ransom dynasty decides to bring the joy of ice to his blazingly hot, iceless hometown of Bernice, Texas. Tragically, his partnership with a man named Macafee leads to a malignant, lingering feud between their descendants. Two key personalities propel this tale of fate and folly: Viola, the Ransom's black housekeeper and a woman of compassion and selflessness, and Victoria, the last surviving Ransom. Victoria is hugely fat, monstrous actually, a condition due either to a glandular malfunction, or, more mysteriously, to the fact that she is the repository for the entire bloody family history. She is, literally, a vast body of knowledge. Dawson's dialogue is sly, her scandals irresistible, and her subtext on the danger of repression provocative.
Robert Draper
"A gorgeously crafted, intelligent and wholly original work....laced with fanciful essay and ciful humor that recalls the best of John Irving." -- Los Angeles Times Book Review
Autumn Stephens
"Engrossing...a big old-fashioned novel in the best sense....'Body of Knowldege' is a big juicy mouthful." -- San Francisoc Chronicle
Fredric Koeppel
"Eminently readable and beautifully written....A bravura performance." -- Chicago Tribune
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616202071
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 7/1/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 250
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Carol Dawson was born and raised in Texas, and has since lived in a variety of places --California, England, Italy, New Zealand, New Mexico, and Washington. During that time, she published three novels (The Waking Spell, Body of Knowledge, and Meeting the Minotaur) and a volume of poetry (Job). Dawson recently returned to her home state, where she is currently writing a history on the Maori people of New Zealand and is at work on her fifth novel.
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