Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine Paperback – 18 Feb 1999
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Welcome back to the world of boot camp, boxing gyms, psych wards and pharmaceutical highs. Once again, Thom Jones seems less to write fiction than to allow his characters to pour their stories directly into the reader's ear. Here the cast includes some of the usual suspects--jittery fighters, Marines, Vietnam vets--as well as some new but equally quirky voices, from a nebbishy vice principal to a 92-year-old woman. First seen in Jones's debut collection, The Pugilist at Rest, the crack Marine recon team Break On Thru makes several more sorties--most notably in "Fields of Purple Forever," in which the civilian Sergeant Ondine takes up swimming much the same way Odysseus, say, took up sailing: "Ondine a night swimmer and he all over the night. Captain of the night. I swim in the fields of purple. Nothing and no one can harm me forever."
"Tarantula" chronicles the rise and fall of John Harold Hammermeister, vice principal of W.E.B. Du Bois High School, where the students fail to be impressed by his caged spider and the frustrated janitors prove his undoing. "My Heroic Mythic Journey" follows the downward career arc of its boxer protagonist, who becomes featherweight champion of the world only to fall for a "bleach-bottle blond with a cheating heart" and a loaded .38. Most winning of all is the elderly narrator of "Daddy's Girl," who manages to preserve her faith even with two dead husbands, countless family tragedies and eyelids growing up into her eyes: "You have to believe like a little child. Believe it because it's impossible." Only the overlong concluding story, "You Cheated, You Lied," disappoints; as chaotic as the main characters' mood swings, it follows two crazy teenagers in love and off their medication. But this tale is an exception in an otherwise noteworthy collection. Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine only confirms Jones's place as one of the most original American writers at work today. --Mary Park
Top customer reviews
If it was intentional, well done. If not you should consider leaving a random photo in all the second hand books you send out.
His stories are very in your face; mostly macho-hero type affairs. If you're after long verbose quiet sit-under-a-tree-and-read prose - you're better off going elsewhere.
Thom has of late tried to change his style a little with variable results. Sometimes writing from a woman's point of view and at other times the scawny beat-upon man such as in the mice story.
Thom has been promising his first novel for sometime now though if he keeps delivering books like this, I think his first novel could wait another year or five.
Definitely a man's writer. A writer with balls - sweaty and bruised balls at that!
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