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Shortlisted for the 2002 National Book Award in Fiction: a dark, riotous Southern novel of sex, death, and transformation.
Brad Watson's first novel has been eagerly awaited since his breathtaking, award-winning debut collection of short stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men. Here, he fulfills that literary promise with a humorous and jaundiced eye. Finus Bates has loved Birdie Wells since the day he saw her do a naked cartwheel in the woods in 1916. Later he won her at poker, lost her, then nearly won her again after the mysterious poisoning of her womanizing husband. Does Vish, the old medicine woman down in the ravine, hold the key to Birdie's elusive character? Or does Parnell, the town undertaker, whose unspeakable desires bring lust for life and death together? Or does the secret lie with some other colorful old-timer in Mercury, Mississippi, not such a small town anymore? With "graceful, patient, insightful and hilarious" prose (USA Today), Brad Watson chronicles Finus's steadfast devotion and Mercury's evolution from a sleepy backwater to a small city. With this "tragicomic story of missed opportunities and unjust necessities" (Fred Chappell), "Southern storytelling is alive and well in Watson's capable hands" (Kirkus Reviews starred review). "His work may remind readers of William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, or Flannery O'Connor, but has a powerand a charmall its own, more pellucid than the first, gentler than the second, and kinder than the third" (Baltimore Sun).
|Publisher:||Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 24, 1955
Place of Birth:Meridian, Mississippi
Education:Meridian Junior College; B.A., Mississippi State University, 1978; M.F.A., University of Alabama, 1985
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I wanted so much to escape with this book. At times I was very much wrapped up in the story and language. However, at other times I felt the subplots and descriptions were disjointed and pointless. The whole necrophilia thing was odd and added nothing to the novel.
This book was so overwritten it's pitiful! I love Southern writers, but this was way off the deep edge.
The book is very well written, but appears to me to have been written in two or three separate sessions. It is almost as if the author began the book, finished, and said, ¿I need some more content in the book¿. The book jumps from character to character, time period to time period, without any real clear direction. He describes the area (Mississippi) well, but does a poor job of having you love or hate it. He also does the same with the characters; do I hate this person or like them?
Watson's terrific short story collection Last Days of the Dog-Men hinted at the incredible narrative powers he displays in his first novel. This powerhouse book has the courage to take us through an entire century (the 20th) with a small town (Mercury, Mississippi) and to chronicle the lives of its most intriguing citizens, living and dead. Yes, the dead play prominent roles in this joyous book. They find themselves resurrected in the act of love-making, speak to the living and serve as tour-guides, and take us on trips back and forth in time. It is the closest thing I know to an American Siddhartha (Hesse), an unimpeachable vision of the eternal continuity of life. Like all great novels, this may try your patience at times. Buy it, test the waters with one toe, two, wade in, start swimming, try not to tire, be patient, Brad Watson will carry you on his back to the far shore.
What do you say about a book whose crowning literary moment is the description of an 89-year-old man taking a dump in the bathroom? Then there¿s this lovely image of a horse: ¿A long, slow f--- flabbered from the proud black lips of Dan¿s hole, and the smoke from it too trailed off in the air.¿ Curiously, intellectuals praise The Heaven of Mercury for how it ¿illumines every accurate detail¿ and delivers ¿just-right words.¿ The Heaven of Mercury is part love story, part murder mystery, and part taste of the South. These parts combine into a dull and dreary text. The love story offers no payoff to the reader. The murder mystery fails outright. It is so loosely developed, there are no clues for the reader to pick up. In the end the omniscient narrator just tells some back story to explain the mystery. As for the taste of the South, it is bland at best. The Heaven of Mercury does make a solid showing as a feminist text. In this book the men are weak, the women are strong. Finally, The Heaven of Mercury is yet another example of how the academic mind disdains plot. Here the story is not told in a linear fashion. A character who dies in one chapter may be alive in the next. This book of 333 pages piddles along to a dubious crescendo (the bathroom scene) near page 200, then for the next 133 pages the author fills in gaps left by the first 200 pages.