While it often seems true that every town in America has become depressingly alike, fully franchised and chain-stored to death, short story writer George Singleton offers a compelling rebuttal in his second collection, The Half-Mammals of Dixie. Almost all 15 of its stories are set in or around a fictional South Carolina town called Forty Five, and Singleton's eccentric characters--flea-market hustlers, a fish aquarium salesman, a bogus "primitive" artist--are hard to imagine outside the narrow civic boundaries of his singular imagination.
A writing teacher and ashtray-collecting, flea-market hound himself, Singleton builds most of his stories around first-person narrators, evoking such writers as Flannery O'Connor, Barry Hannah, and Raymond Carver, but infusing each tale with his own brand of sly humor and outsider skepticism. Singleton is particularly good at capturing the rhythms and peculiarities of southern speech, as in this passage from "When Children Count": "You sound exactly like my dead sister," this woman said, pushing her full cart into Tammy's backside. "I ain't never heard nothing like that. Say this: 'I will never, ever order a club sandwich here, what with the ptomaine.' Say it. Say."
While most of the stories are funny--"Richard Petty Accepts National Book Award" is an absolute marvel of conception and execution--a few of the tales that hit hardest are much darker. Especially haunting is "Bank of America," which centers around four childhood friends who still gather annually as adults in a swamp-land tree house, from which they fish for turtles and are forced, one fateful year, to confront the consequences of past misdeeds. Despite the story's title, which refers to a character who works at a national chain of banks, Singleton tells the story in a voice that's as unique as the flawed, but mostly likable, characters who populate his hometown. --Keith Moerer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Singleton expands upon the peculiar conceits of his debut collection, These People Are Us, in these 15 offbeat stories. Set mostly around the little South Carolina backwater of Forty-Five, they take on everything from racism to alcoholism to head lice, with plenty of laughs along the way. A hapless father clumsily tries to use his nine-year-old son to win back his high-school sweetheart (now the boy's teacher) in "Show and Tell," sending him off to school with old love notes, corsages and jewelry he had given her and making the boy pass them off as precious antiques. Another father launches a one-man crusade against a racist newspaper deliverer in "Fossils." "What Slide Rules Can't Measure" details the bizarre lives of denizens of the flea market circuit, while the title story follows an aquarium salesman to a bizarre motivational seminar, where he meets a scarred woman who sells audio books to the blind. "This Itches, Y'all" features a boy who fled youthful ignominy as the star of an educational film on head lice, then returns to his 25th class reunion to find unexpected celebrity. As in the first volume, the narrators tend to be relatively sophisticated men (or boys) who find themselves surrounded by feckless "pallet-heads." Some may find the tone of intellectual superiority condescending, but it's usually tempered by self-deprecation, to wonderful comic effect.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
An entertaining, if unusual collection of stories by one of my favorite Southern authors. While I agree with some of the other reviewers that some of the stories are exceptionally... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Greg A. Marshall
The stories are kooky and unusual but somehow believable. They vary from very funny to just plain odd. This is fiction that has a strong regional or small-town appeal. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Lee Wheatley
The Half-Mammals of Dixie is now one of my favorite short story collections. I read 2 or 3 stories from it a few years ago, but I just got around to reading the whole book last... Read morePublished on March 5, 2013 by Mark J
Not a bad book, but if you're really wanting a good collection of stories from the South, read Tim Gautreaux's Welding with Children.Published on August 2, 2012 by Jamie Filpi
The Half-Mammals of Dixie by George Singleton is a collection of short stories centered around the fictitious town of Forty-Five, South Carolina. Read morePublished on July 3, 2010 by BermudaOnion
This book makes me wonder what the author was smoking when he wrote it. It is frustrating, confusing at times, and sometimes totally unrealistic. Read morePublished on February 16, 2004 by Chrissy
Singleton has done a great job of portraying Southern characters accurately and honestly. He has deep and engaging characters that are so rare in short stories. Read morePublished on December 17, 2002 by Michael W. Graham
No one does it better - George's second collection of stories are absolutely great. It's almost like he sneaks up on you, makes you laugh, and then darts away to the next bit of... Read morePublished on October 7, 2002 by Ed Williams