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Polar Hardcover – January 14, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed for his idiosyncratic prose and picaresque colloquialisms and his irreverent but brilliantly insightful portrayals of the smalltown denizens of backwater North Carolina and Virginia Pearson revisits sad but savvy deputy sheriff Ray Tatum and Kit Carson, his off-again, on-again African-American park ranger girlfriend from his seventh novel, Blue Ridge. Wildly and delightfully digressive, the yarn is narrated in the omniscient voice of the collective townsfolk in Pearson's signature run-on gnarly sentences. Possessing the annoying habit of regaling locals and strangers alike with the plots of the latest porno flicks beamed in on his TV satellite dish, Clayton, the town recluse, undergoes a sudden personality change at the checkout counter of the local grocery mart and adopts the name Titus. Retiring to his rundown residence, he begins to sketch an outline of Antarctica on his fireplace chimney and demonstrates surprising abilities as a seer after ostensibly foretelling the death of a pet pooch. After the toddler daughter of a transplanted Ohio lawyer vanishes into thin air, the citizenry seek the help of the newfound prophet, but to no avail. A veterinarian couple who like to indulge in sex smeared with wallpaper paste, a llama crossbred with wild deer, a slicker running a septic-tank scam, a clan of ne'er-do-wells operating a produce stand with fruit stolen from nearby orchards, and enough oddballs to cast a Coen brothers' film enliven the road to denouement. Aptly compared to Faulkner and Mark Twain, Pearson always focuses his satire on some aspect of our national character; here, it's what he sees as our hypocritical attitude toward porn. As usual, a subtle sadness counterpoints his marvelously whimsical meanderings, giving substance to this wholly enjoyable tale. 5-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Pearson, master of digression, the periodic sentence, and the 50-cent word in an Appalachian setting, returns with the tale of a missing child and a backwoods seer nothing like Sharyn McCrumb's Nora Bonesteel (The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter). The seer is former porno movie maven Clayton, who is transformed in a grocery-store check-out line into a dispenser of cryptic, useless, but accurate prophecy and a sort of "channel" for a long-dead polar explorer, Titus Oates. The missing girl? Well, her father finds himself an odd suicide, her mother finds herself a right-wing radio/TV phenomenon, and Deputy Ray Tatum (see also Pearson's Blue Ridge) finds the girl, years later. Oh yeah, lots more happens, too. Potentially interesting characters like Ray's black kung-fu girlfriend Kit Carson are two-dimensional, but Ray, Clayton, and "that Dunn woman" come alive. In any case, Pearson's work isn't really about character but language, lore, and local color. For larger collections, but essential where literary weirdness is appreciated. Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (January 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067003035X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670030354
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This follows the place and characters from Pearson's Blue Ridge.
Wonderfully whimsical, full of fascinating small-town events and
people. There's a mystery here, but that's just one thread--if
you're looking for John Grisham or Mickey Spillane or Agatha
Christie, this isn't for you. No kidnapping of the president's
daughter by terrorists or other national perils, but rather a
missing child and small-town crimes such as pilfered fruit. This
is a book that cannot be hurried through--if you've ever sat down
with the locals at the small-town general store or sewing circle
and listened to the tales and gossip for several hours, you'll
have an appreciation for the writing style. Unlike life in a
city, you're known by your family and relatives by marriage and
the like--one of the Smythville Jeeters whose daughter married
the oldest Bynum boy from Wartburg, the one who drives the UPS
truck. So a thread will start up, and that will occasion some
comments about so-and-so's family, and that leads into another
thread of talk, and a further thread--eventually getting back to
the first thread where some progress is made before wandering off
again to other threads. When you listen to the locals at the
general store/sewing circle, they want to know where a person is
from, who their cousins are, where they work, etc. This could be
insufferably boring, but the threads that Pearson follows in his
books take you to a tapestry of foibles and eccentricities that
are fascinating. This is certainly the funniest new book I've
read in a couple of years, and one I'm already looking forward to
rereading, even though I just finished it two hours ago.
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Format: Hardcover
On the surface this is a kind of mystery/disappearance/whodunit kind of book. But folks that's the surface. On every other level it is a wonderful but eccentric biography of a place, a small town somewhere in the Blue Ridge, and what it feels like to live there...the humorous eccentrics, the odd kind of loneliness and loss the landscape evokes, the fundamental decency of most folks (including the eccentrics) and the threatening shallowness of strangers from outside.
The place, the characters, and the feelings all point in the same direction. I like that! If you prefer straightforward thrillers this will be new to you, but give it a try. If you prefer your local-color novels to be relatively plotless, this will be far too interesting for your tastes!
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Format: Hardcover
In Polar, Deputy Ray Tatum has two mysteries to solve: the disappearance of Angela Dunn, a wordless child who wanders into the woods, never to be seen again by her parents, and the sudden prophetic powers of the formerly worthless Clayton, a shiftless town institution best known for his preference for the porn channel. One mystery will be solved, while the other remains tantalizingly out of reach.
But these strong narrative engines are not what really drives Polar, T. R. Pearson's latest novel. What Pearson seeks to do, instead, is capture the feel of small town life and the myriad personalities that give it texture, without resorting to the usual platitudes that pretend such towns have more than their share of unspoiled innocence. In other words, Pearson's small-town Virginia is no Mayberry. Nor is it inhabited by the Cleavers.
The novelist thinks nothing of interrupting the flow of his narrative to give the life story of a minor character who may never appear in the book again. This doesn't constitute an aesthetic flaw. After all, the true, unvarnished motivations of man are what Polar is really all about.
It's about characters like Ivy Vaughn, a woman who remains in such a high dudgeon she never pays attention to the road and leaves a trail of dead animals in her wake. It's also about Mrs. Dunn, who turns the loss of her daughter and husband into profit, launching a career as a radio celebrity whose collective losses make her an authority on flagging American morals.
And, of course, there is Clayton, whose television satellite is arced over his garage at an angle that betrays, for all to observe, his addiction to televised erotica. Clayton seems an unlikely candidate to be blessed with the gift of second sight. But fate, which has a definite sense of humor in a T.R.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine my surprise--sitting in the waiting room at the Ford dealership while the 40,000 mile service was being completed, I'd brought along T R Pearson's Polar to finish. I assumed that I'd be chuckling aloud at Clayton the backwoods seer and Ray Tatum, the deputy we'd met in Blue Ridge. But Pearson caught me off guard, and there I was all misty eyed in the waiting room. He's not a writer who plays to sentiment at all--in fact, he's just the opposite. He's swinging the satirist's sharp blade most of the time, so that the uplands of Western Virginia become a cultural cross-section of contemporary America. There's humor in his slicing and some exasperation as well. But this is a novel about the tiny dollops of redemption that most of us have to make do with in this life, and when he's brought us to that realization, Pearson's one of the most affecting and effective writers going today. Polar continues the trend he established in Blue Ridge--a pared back style, a harder edge to his criticism--but this one has called for an emotional investment from the writer that he's held back for a while. He's worth every minute--read him.
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