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Miss Corpus Hardcover – February 5, 2003

3.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The lives of two bereaved men seeking respite on the southern highways parallel and converge in Miss Corpus, Clay McLeod Chapman's brutal and rewarding debut novel. Will Colby has returned to his Virginia home from a six-month tour in the merchant marines to find his new wife and lifelong love dead on the kitchen floor. Will had promised her a honeymoon drive to Florida, and after collecting her remains in travel coolers, he heads southward. In Florida, Phil Winters's teenage son has been found at the bottom of a swamp inside the van he lost control of during an asthma attack. Recovering his son's decomposed skull from the dredged vehicle, Phil departs on the road trip to New York he had planned with his son in the hope it would bring them closer.

On the way to their foreshadowed collision, both men travel through eerie landscapes populated by curiosities, such as the boy with an ear of corn attached to his deformed arm, or the son of a failing motel owner who manipulates car accidents for profit. Will and Phil's dreamlike first-person accounts are interrupted by the narratives of these marginal characters, as well as random radio broadcasts, providing a fragmented, dimensioned view of each man's story as well as the South as a whole. Full of random violence and backwoods oddities, Chapman's landscape often resembles the gothic terrain of Flannery O'Connor or the early works of Cormac McCarthy, and he offers precise, unflinching accounts of decay and cruelty, such as a burning motel "fed by the flesh of so many children that I believed the sun to be one big mass of burning bodies." Yet he balances such images with a continual sense of humanity, while his engaged prose describes a world of abiding mystery and rebirth. Though an often difficult read, Miss Corpus contains a strangely apt and ultimately weighty sense of optimism. --Ross Doll

From Publishers Weekly

This dizzyingly imaginative first novel by playwright and short story writer Chapman (Rest Area) is the entwined tale of two bereaved men who go on the road in search of redemption. At 19, William Colby returns to Virginia from four months at sea to discover his bride dead on the kitchen floor. In Florida, Philip Winters's teenage son is found decomposing at the bottom of a swamp. Colby had promised his wife a highway honeymoon, a drive south all the way to Florida. Winters's son had always wanted to travel north. Unaware of each other, the men embark on their personal pilgrimages, finally colliding with one another on I-95. Along the way, they come across a gallery of grotesque characters, from a little boy who has a corncob for an arm to a woman who gives bloody birth in a highway tollbooth. In a slow, simmering style that melds Southern folklore with a gothic sensibility, Chapman concocts a powerful tale that is suspenseful and moving. Much of the narrative is fragmented, related through shifting points of view. Using the road as his frame of reference, Chapman coins shocking similes: "my name lumbered out of my mouth like a dying dog-just hit by a speeding car along the highway." The book is heavy with horror-dismemberment, torture, arson and freakish car crashes abound-but Chapman's knack for storytelling and his vigorous prose establish a dramatic momentum, moving the tale to a violent, tragic crescendo. Suffused with a compassion, the novel transcends its bizarre premise and suggests that the magic of literature can make sense of life.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1st edition (February 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786867388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786867387
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #923,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Clay McLeod Chapman is the creator of the rigorous storytelling session The Pumpkin Pie Show. Publications: rest area, miss corpus, and The Tribe trilogy--Homeroom Headhunters, Camp Cannibal and Academic Assassins (Disney). Film: The Boy (SXSW 2015), Henley (Sundance 2012) and Late Bloomer (Sundance 2005). Theatre: Commencement and Hostage Song (w/ Kyle Jarrow). Comics: Edge of Spider-Verse, The Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Vertigo Quarterly: SFX and Self Storage. He is a writing instructor at The Actors Studio MFA Program at Pace University. Visit him at: www.claymcleodchapman.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I first started reading this book I didn't think I was going to make it past the first couple of pages. I enjoyed the authors previous release (a collection of short stories), but I doubted my capabilities of enjoying an intact book. Despite my hesitancy towards reading novels, I began to process the words. As I ran into the different characters and situations I found myself sympathizing with them (which is nothing to take lightly, considering the extremity of the characters). It felt at times like I was in the back seat experiencing everything the author was describing in vivid detail. Its not his imagery that entraps you in this twisted tale of love and death, but through his choice of words which perfectly flow in a mesmerizing stream, leaving you questioning your state of mind.
I must warn you, some of his images are at times a bit difficult to stomach, and to be honest- disgusting, but I personally felt what was intended, and if I may say so, is an accomplishment on the authors part.
I'm about 9 times farther in this book than I thought I would be by now. I find putting this novel down harder than getting up for school at 7 am every morning. Some of it can be a little gruesome at times but its all in good taste- Written for purpose and not written solely for reaction. The livelihood of the dead is amazing.
I still have a few more chapters to go, and I'm looking forward to the "miles ahead" towards the Chapman patented twisted ending. From the personification of the South, to the corpse in the cooler, its a guaranteed trip down an awkward yet enlightening bumpy road (no pun intended). For Chapman's first novel, its quite an accomplishment. Pick it up-see for yourself.
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By A Customer on March 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
nice concept, but simpleton and trite.
this is "wanna-be" literature. it wants to be so much that it isn't or it can't be.
clay has potential; i hope he lives up to it.
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By A Customer on December 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
So yes, we can all agree that this book is definitely not for everyone. But my God, when the right people find it... they'll be in for one heck of a good read. It's a motley crew of characters, but all have heart -- which is why what they do doesn't matter as much as why they do it in the first place. I'd say this is an author who's going far... and it all starts here.
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Format: Hardcover
When we first heard Clay Chapman's voice, it came with a Southern Gothic accent out of the mouths of extreme characters, or characters in extreme circumstances. In his exceptional debut collection of short stories, REST AREA, he created a cast of storytellers that included, among others, a woman who held a rabid fox at arm's length for 12 hours, a man crooning to a woman's corpse like she was a mermaid; and a ventriloquist's dummy who was particularly jealous of his owner's new wife. However, his shocking content did not overshadow his stunning turn of phrase; he was obviously a writer to watch.
With his first novel, he has added to the accomplished body of his previous work-literally. MISS CORPUS features the voice of some body indeed, the voice that bookends the novel, the voice of the South: "There's a pulse beneath your feet, radiating through the rest of this country," she says. "More bodies have been buried into me than anywhere else, weighing me down with the heft of humanity." Chapman traces the stories of two men who follow that pulse, and end up at the conclusion adding their bodies into that "heft."
Will comes home from the sea to find his wife dead on the floor. He lies down next to her, pulling a map she had been using over them, so that "North Carolina covered her chest, her chin pointing toward Winston-Salem."(The author attended the North Carolina School of the Arts.) Then, he starts south on the honeymoon that she was planning, taking her along-in plastic coolers. As he sails southward, he sprinkles her body parts along the way, until he could feel her "...sprouting out from the South already, the bits of her body taking root within the people I met on our honeymoon.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved Clay McLeod Chapman's Rest Area. Such a twisted yet lovable collection of short stories and I was not disappointed by Miss Corpus. The story telling is amazing. The way he writes makes you feel as if you are really there, that you are sitting in the back of the car and the characters are talking to you. You empathize with them even though you know what they are doing is heinous. You can't help but love them despite their faults. Despite some of the grotesque imagery the story is so emotional, a whole roller coaster of emotions, and I find myself not wanting to get off. I believe it's very much a love story (between the characters and also for the South in general). A very dark one! That's what is so appealing about it though. It's not typical. A love story for people who grew up loving horror films and finding every Nicholas Sparks movie/novel to be what is truly disgusting. It's not for everyone, that's certain. But if you are one of the slightly morbid individuals that likes things to be just a tad dark and a little gross, then this is for you. At it's heart Miss Corpus is a funny, demented, and passionate love story that will linger in your thoughts long after you've put the book down.
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