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3.6 out of 5 stars45
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 27 August 2013
If you are reading this review, chances are that you are already familiar with some of the works of Donald Harington which need no further endorsement, though you may have picked up on a possible anomaly. I'll elaborate shortly. If you are new to the author, Entertainment Weekly described him as "America's greatest unknown writer." Novelist and critic Fred Chappell said of him "Donald Harington isn't an unknown writer. He's an undiscovered continent."

Apart from "The CherryPit", "Ekaterina",and "Let Us Build Us a City" (which is non-fiction), the backbone to his twelve other novels is the fictional hamlet of Stay More. Each book is a complete story in its own right and can be read in isolation. However, because Stay More is the common theme, its various generations of inhabitants keep passing through the different novels (set in differing decades) at various stages in their lives. This increasingly develops familiarity with the characters and draws the reader deeper into their world. (At the beginning of "When Angels Rest", you the reader are invited to sit down next to eleven year old Dawny (ie Donny ie Donald Harington). At the close of the novel he sits down beside you as you read, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end). His work has been described as "a magical-realist haze with metafictional twists and turns". If you can buy into the idea of ghosts narrating the stories, animals that talk, a cameo appearance from Jesus, and a detective who isn't a detective (but again bears a marked similarity to Harington himself) you are well on the way to immersing yourself in this surreal creation.

To date I have read "Some Other Place. The Right Place", "With", "Angels", and "The Lightening Bug".These were written in 1972, 2004, 1998 and 1970 respectively. One character (Sugrue Adam) has the briefest of appearances as an adult in "Some Other Place". He appears as an aged man and a principal character in "With". "Angels" features him as a teenager and but one of a cast of many. Thus even if the books are read in the order that they are written, time moves forwards and backwards at the author's whim. Seeing Sugrue's life in rewind poses no problem to the enjoyment of the books and helps flesh out the character.

Now to my main point."Some Other Place" is partly a murder mystery - but don't expect Humphrey Bogart! A brain teaser and several red herrings provide a climactic close to the first half of the book. Throughout the second half you are constantly challenged by doubts about what is real and what is fabricated. If I had read "With" before "Some Other Place", the plot of the latter would have been blown out of the water by a single sentance in the former.This in itself is an enigma when the books are so expertly crafted. If you get hooked on Stay More and intend reading the series, it might not be a bad idea to read them in the order written.

"The Nearly Complete Works of Donald Harington" is divided into three volumes. Interestingly "The Cherry Pit" and "Let Us Build Us a City" are removed from the chronological order and reappear as the final novels in volume three. ("Ekaterina" remains in sequence). Thus we have an almost unbroken run of the twelve Stay More novels. Each kindle volume contains five novels for virtually the same price as one. I would give a resounding five stars to the stories I have read so far, and "Some Other Place" is a tour de force that can stand several readings to fathom all of the intricacies. So how could you possibly go wrong buying volume one? My only nagging worry is that the secret of Stay More will eventually get out. An independent film company tried to adapt "Some Other Place" in 1985 and the result was panned by the critics. It is conceivable that Hollywood could latch onto it, serve up a mutilated sanitised bunch of pap for the masses, and destroy the magical world that grows only in a reader's head.
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on 24 September 2013
Wonderful novels by the US's most neglected author. Most stories centre around the quirky folks in the fictional town of Stay more Arkansas. Just don't read it whilst in public if you want to avoid people staring at you as you laugh out loud or chortle and guffaw.
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on 28 September 2014
Where do I start with this review. I am an avid reader but the first thing I had to learn was the need to read every word and not scan through as I often do. I can understand the mixed reviews but the description that the author uses is quite amazing, the first book had me enthralled although the story was just about an ordinary woman and her life. If you apreciate good descriptive writing you will enjoy this book .If you dont like this level of literature do not bother. The last of the 5 books 'The Quoiring of theTrees. Was one of the best books I have ever read , I would give this book 6 stars.
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on 24 December 2013
I was inspired to read this book on the back of great online reviews. Having never heard of Donald Harington, I am somewhat amazed how he goes so un noticed. Brilliantly original, funny and hard to put down.
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on 4 December 2013
I've only just started this mammoth work and am loving it. It is about the inhabitants of Stay More - a dreary town, which everyone leaves as soon as they can. Not everyone - we meet and are thoroughly engaged by the inhabitants, who are so clearly drawn that we feel deeply for them. I've never heard of Donald Harington before, but what a find - I'm so glad there are several more books all downloaded at once.
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on 25 September 2014
I've now finished the first four novels in this book and finally decided it was worth a recommendation to a friend and a review. It won't be for everyone - one of the reasons I hesitated before making a recommendation is the explicit sexual content - but if you can tolerate that (or just skip a few paragraphs) it's worth a try. The first story was interesting though I found the ending a little disappointing, the second needed quite a bit of perseverance, but since then I haven't been able to put it down. I won't spoil the fourth book by giving anything away, but it's quirky and easily my favourite so far, I can't wait to get in to the next one.
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on 18 August 2014
I bought this on the strength of several reviews that billed Donald Harrington as one of the unrecognised giants of American literature. There are several books in the volume but I chose to start with Some Other Place, The Right Place. It is one of a few books where I found myself wishing it would end - it ploughed on interminably, with repeated meanderings around the equally meandering lives of the two main protagonists. Like another reviewer, I kept reading because I assumed there would be "a point" to be made - there wasn't , it simply petered out.
I'm really not surprised he is an "undiscovered" writer - I certainly wont be inflicting any more of his books on myself. Like several American writers I have read, the book seems to be little more than an excuse for the writer to live out his tawdry sexual fantasies.
Not for me, I'm afraid.
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on 25 August 2014
A complex novel covering over a hundred years and featuring the mountain people also known as hill billies. It moves forward and back through generations and the complex inter-relationships of the people living in the remote villages. There is an intriguing touch of fantasy and humour to lighten the story of the otherwise harsh and introverted lives of the inhabitants of the villages. Inbreeding and emigration gradually reduce these villages and they disappear from the maps and little remains of their former existence . There is a degree of explicit sex usually relevant to the complex relationships. Sometimes this is not an easy read but I found it worth the initial effort. I have now bought his other work currently on offer.
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on 17 January 2015
I really enjoyed this. Donald Harington is new to me and I'm so looking forward to reading his other works.
The writing stile is unusual, a bit like Faulkner, takes a little effort but not unduly complex or deep - it's not Ulysses.
Not much happens book I didn't find it slow by any means. It's worth reading regularly as there are quite a few characters and it's easy to forget what relationship they have to one another.
I was a little surprised by the comments on here about the sexual content, a lot of the content is about sex, but in my opinion it's of a relatively innocent first sex exploration type and is not excessive. I guess you may not want to read it to your mother, and it may cause embarrassment if you're one of those people on the train that find it impossible to read without doing so audibly, otherwise I can't see the problem.
The stories are, on the whole, gentle and charming. I would suggest approaching them with an open mind and a willingness to persevere a little and you could be richly rewarded.
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on 18 June 2015
Two things about me, I rarely give 5 stars and I am seldom moved enough to write a review. I would struggle to name a dozen books worth 5 stars, I'm mean and fussy. Two such books would be "To Kill a Mocking Bird" and "100 Years of Solitude", so if you like them Donald may be for you. Like Harper Lee, Donald sets his work in an imaginary town based on the world he grew up in, it is a place most of us with our metropolitan lives would at first glance find backwards and reactionary, but Donald writes about his Stay More with such compassion you end end loving its people even if you find their customs and views a bit red neck. The tradition of how the settlement got the name Stay More and how it residents use the expression 'stay more' throughout its history is just... well lovely. Like Márquez's in his "100m Years.." Donald creates a saga over many generations to describe the rise and fall of Stay More, this is most evident in the stunning third novel of this volume "The Architecture of the Ozarks" which could be a tribute to Márquez's master piece. But this is no collection of tributes of other authors it it is full to the brim with ideas that take you by surprise, I was constantly wowed by his seemingly unlimited ability to pull a new literary trick from the pages. In the weakest of the novels he looks at one part of Stay More's history through the eyes of a community of rather snobbish cockroaches (I know it sounds ludicrous but he does make it work) there is one starling part where he writes a cockroach sex scene which he manages to make sexy. And sex seems to be the issue here, there is a lot if it, especially in the first novel "Lightning Bug", and some of it is a little uncomfortable, casual, incest, rape and (by our standards) under-aged. Many reviewers have found it too much however it is very much part of the story and needs to be there. The rape scene in Lightning Bug is particularly challenging for the reader due to the relationship between the victim and perpetrator but that is exactly why it is such a good collection of novels, an easy read this is not but the challenge is highly satisfying. I took breaks between each novel but was dissatisfied with what I read in between and was eager to get back to Stay More, I look forward to volume 2 after a short break.
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