If you've read Deadwood and Paris Trout, you're probably standing line right now to buy a copy of Pete Dexter's latest, Spooner. It's been far too long (how many years now?) since we've had the pleasure of hearing from Dexter, but Spooner is certainly worth the wait. There it all is - Dexter's incomparable style, what I call an exuberantly tragic way of looking at life. Plus, his unstoppable humor, a guffaw on every page, and mirth making on-target descriptions, such as when referring to his cousin Arlo's wife, probably still in her thirties: "(She) was sunshine itself, but already whiskery, and the best arm wrestler in the family." Or, when sharing a beer with and expressing high regard for the same wife, She "liked to pop off the bottle caps against the kitchen table, and sometimes the glass lip would come off with it too, and she would drink the beer anyway, right out of the bottle. Sunshine itself."
Spooner is one of the those fellows to whom whatever can happen will happen plus many unimaginable happenings, too. He seemed almost marked for tough luck from birth. Born in Milledgeville, Georgia, he was one of fraternal twins "second out the door." Unfortunately, his better-looking brother, Clifford, was dead on arrival. Nonetheless, Clifford was always to be mother Lily's favorite child. Widowed a few short years later she married Calmer Ottosson, a shy fellow who was discharged from the Navy following an unfortunate happening at an important burial at sea.
Try as he might Calmer tried to understand Spooner and help him in every way, which seemed to be an impossible task for both. Yet he perseveres. The two weather adversities (and there are many) together.
Spooner is a story of love, loyalty, and family, a brilliant story of two who keep on trying to make lemonade when life throws them tomatoes.
- Gail Cooke