Why Dogs Chase Cars: Tales of a Beleagured Boyhood

Overview

These fourteen funny stories tell the tale of a beleaguered boyhood down home where the dogs still run loose. As a boy growing up in the tiny backwater town of Forty-Five, South Carolina (where everybody is pretty much one beer short of a six-pack), all Mendal Dawes wants is out.

It's not just his hometown that's hopeless. Mendal's father is just as bad. Embarrassing his son to death nearly every day, Mr. Dawes is a parenting guide's bad example. He buries stuff in the ...

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Why Dogs Chase Cars: Tales of a Beleaguered Boyhood

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Overview

These fourteen funny stories tell the tale of a beleaguered boyhood down home where the dogs still run loose. As a boy growing up in the tiny backwater town of Forty-Five, South Carolina (where everybody is pretty much one beer short of a six-pack), all Mendal Dawes wants is out.

It's not just his hometown that's hopeless. Mendal's father is just as bad. Embarrassing his son to death nearly every day, Mr. Dawes is a parenting guide's bad example. He buries stuff in the backyard—fake toxic barrels, imitation Burma Shave signs (BIRD ON A WIRE, BIRD ON A PERCH, FLY TOWARD HEAVEN, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH), yardstick collections. He calls Mendal "Fuzznuts" and makes him recite Marx and Durkheim daily and befriend a classmate rumored to have head lice.

Mendal Dawes is a boy itching to get out of town, to take the high road and leave the South and his dingbat dad far behind—just like those car-chasing dogs.

But bottom line, this funky, sometimes outrageous, and always very human tale is really about how Mendal discovers that neither he nor the dogs actually want to catch a ride, that the hand that has fed them has a lot more to offer. On the way to watching that light dawn, we also get to watch the Dawes's precarious relationship with a place whose "gene pool [is] so shallow that it wouldn't take a Dr. Scholl's insert to keep one's soles dry."

To be consistently funny is a great gift. To be funny and cynical and empathetic all at the same time is George Singleton's special gift, put brilliantly into play in this new collection.

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Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
"A disturbingly askew—at times, downright surreal—visioin of the South."
Entertainment Weekly
Raleigh News and Observer
"This is a South that knows something of suburbia and while the characters may not be in the best circumstances, this is a great new take on the hard-drinking, hardscrabble Southerner."
The Raleigh News and Observer
Andrew Ervin
Singleton's hilarious insights come early and often.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A precocious Southern boy tries to come to terms with his father's odd legacy in this first novel by short-story writer Singleton (The Half-Mammals of Dixie; etc.), a quirky coming-of-age yarn set in the tiny town of Forty-Five, S.C., in the 1970s. Mendal's mother runs off to Nashville when he's just a baby, leaving his father, an eccentric jack of all trades, to raise the boy alone. Mendal's upbringing makes it hard for him to fit in "I had a reputation for being some kind of loner hermit freak at Forty-Five High School because my father made me read all of Durkheim and Marx and recite it daily" but he has a few good friends: acerbic Shirley Ebo, "the only black girl preintegration at Forty-Five Elementary," and Compton Lane, also motherless. Much of the novel is an excuse for Singleton to string together a series of loosely connected anecdotes peopled by characters who might have stepped out of the pages of a Flannery O'Connor novel. At the center of most is Mendal's father, who alternately flummoxes and delights his son with his strange habits, playing pranks on neighbors he dislikes and compulsively burying random objects in the yard. Like a gentler Harry Crews, Singleton explores the backwaters of Southern life in this offbeat, episodic novel. Agent, Liz Darhansoff at Darhansoff, Verrill & Feldman. (Sept. 17) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
Growing up in Forty-Five, South Carolina in the '70s, Mendal and many other young town people think they can find a better life someplace else. Like dogs who chase cars, they are looking desperately for a way out of Forty-Five. Mendal Dawes' goal in life is to leave that town. His father, Lee, is an odd man, though a surprisingly caring parent and an entrepreneur of sorts with a keen eye to the future. Lee and Mendal live in a sad cement-block house just outside of town. Though he never held a job, eccentric Lee manages to bury on his property tons and tons of junk he collected over the years—old tin service station signs, old oak school desks, railroad spikes, oil cans, lumber, yardsticks, salt shakers, and black telephones, to name but a few—items he intends to leave his son as an inheritance one day. Although Mendal's mother ran off to be a singer in Nashville when Mendal was only three or four years old, he still half expects her to turn up among his father's buried items. Singleton knows the small-town Southern life he writes about so humorously, the pranks Mendal and best friend Comp (Compton Lane) play and the ingenious schemes Lee devises so that his son will grow up with some sense of responsibility and values. Mendal escapes Forty-Five, goes to college and marries, but he returns after his father's death to claim his inheritance and learns to see his father in a different light. An extremely funny book that boys especially will love. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 300p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Susan Allison
Library Journal
Fans of contemporary Southern writing will recognize Singleton as the author of The Half-Mammals of Dixie, a collection of humorous stories set in the small South Carolina town of Forty-Five. In Singleton's first novel, Mendal Dawes one of the few literate people in Forty-Five looks back on his 1970s adolescence with his eccentric father. The elder Dawes spent his spare time burying junk of all kinds in his backyard, along with dozens of empty oil drums labeled toxic waste. Years later, Forty-Five is discovered by land developers, just as Dawes predicted, and suddenly vintage Americana is selling for top dollar to relocated yuppies. Even better, the greedy land speculators avoid the Dawes property, which is rumored to be an environmental disaster. Thanks to his father, Mendal finds himself with a steady source of income and plenty of privacy. Unfortunately, the book reads like a patchwork of short stories loosely stitched together rather than a coherent, book-length narrative. For regional collections only. Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565124042
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

George Singleton lives in Dacusville, South Carolina, and teaches writing at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. His short stories appear regularly in national magazines—the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, Zoetrope, Playboy—and literary journals—the Southern Review, Shenandoah, the Georgia Review, Yalobusha Review, and many others. He is also the author of These People Are Us and The Half-Mammals of Dixie.

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Table of Contents

Nearby toxic waste dumps 1
Unemployment 61
Embarrassment 66
A wheelchair's too slow 87
Segregation 107
Asphalt's better than cinder 127
In need of better hobbies 147
No fear of God or Hell 167
Mufflers 190
Tired of old tricks 208
Blue laws 227
Even curs hate fruitcake 247
Better fire hydrants, shorter trees, more holes to dig 267
The earth rotates this way 287
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 27, 2012

    boring sorry i spent money onit not worth any stars

    boring sorry i spent money onit not worth any stars

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2012

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    BhrngggvtvgffggggggggggvtvtvtvtvttvtvtvvtvtvtvtvybtvtvtvvtvtvtvttvtvgvgtbyunmyhhjhbvGhuybybyyyyvtvggcrvvcrcrctttrcrrrvrcvtvttvv r4%%*%%*;;*34446'3"56; tvtgfbfrcyufhajsnwhahajq

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2005

    Absolutely hilarious.

    I bought this book for some reading material for a flight coming home from Boston. I was just browsing the fiction and literature section for something I'd never heard of that sounded interesting. This book is one of the best finds I've ever made. Singleton's first novel had me laughing out loud in the terminal before I even got on the flight. Throughout the whole book, I was cracking up to stories ranging from playing the name game in 2nd grade with several children whose names ended in -uck to two high school kids thinking they were going to 'score' with their teachers by bringing them tea-leaves as pseudo-pot. Its an amazingly fast read, and I was hoping the stories in this episodic novel would never end. It does all come together for a suprisingly emotional conclusion.

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