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The Half-Mammals of Dixie Paperback – September 8, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (September 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156028581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156028585
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,516,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Adam Burton on June 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This was the first collection of George's that I read, and I think it's still my favorite. The title intrigued me, then the author photo on the back flap sealed the deal(he's in a personal sauna, smoking and looking like he just made it through one hell of a bender). Fortunately for me, the satirical whimsy of both title and photo accurately reflected the prose gems found between the covers.

These stories are funny(sometimes uproariously so), they are wistful, they are damning, they are evocative. It is clear that while George is quick to lampoon the stupidities that rural southern life is so often steeped in, there is also an appreciation, an affection for the south that tempers his barbs.

Some reviewers have charged that this volume is uneven. I disagree; it is true that the stories are not funny from beginning to end, and that some are funnier than others, but I would also posit the notion that George's purpose in writing these stories is perhaps deeper than merely evoking amusement. He is not a one-trick pony, limited to the realm of belly-laughs.

As for those who were bored with this collection, might I suggest something a little more to your tastes? Something nice and two-dimensional from Patterson or Evanovich, maybe?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Victor S. Alpher on February 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fie, fie, what happened to my review? Down the Bayou here we go again! It must have had something to do with those Half-Mammals or the Confederate in the Attic...
If you are a Southerner, this book will ring with truth, because Mr. Singleton's characters are so obviously around the block, if not next door. If you know that prosperity can be measured in the number of cars you have up on blocks in the FRONT yard, you're in the neighborhood. If you're afraid to get of I-95 between the Virginia border and Florida, or I-10 between the Louisiana border and Houston, this is the book for you. Or, if you took I-64 thinking you'd go through West Virginia and turned around where it ended (Fie, Senator Byrd!) need to get right with Dixie.
I could hardly recommend Mr. Singleton's stories higher--up with Confederates in the Attic (nonfiction), or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (possibly fiction). His characters refer to Nietzche, get regular calls from the FBI and John Walsh, or play 20 questions as a marital ritual, or find themselves thinking about cosines, and sines for "no reason in particular." And, they tend to think of lead pipes for uses not related to who did what to whom in the drawing room. They have no clue, but they're right on.
I highly recommend you get into this book, and it compares in frankness with Walker Percy, without the I Went to Medical School in New York puttin' on airs. Regular folks, who know the difference between a live oak (you can look it up) and poison ivy, at least.
Yep, it ITCHES, y'all. Rather be a lying dog than a dog lyin'.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David J. Gannon on November 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In The Half-Mammals of Dixie: Stories George Singleton uses the thematic device of a focusing locale as the basis for this collection of offbeat, quixotic and lively short stories. The locale in this case is the rural backwater burg of Forty-Five, South Carolina. All of the stories are either set in--or in some way involve the denizens of this little town. There are a few characters that populate several stories to provide thematic coherence throughout the narrative.
The stories themselves focus primarily on the fringes (though a good cross section of those fringes) of Forty-Five society--if such a small town can be thought to have either fringe--or society--for that matter.
While the book is very enjoyable overall the quality of the stories varies considerably. There are moments of incredible hilarity counterpoised by moments of complete boredom. In too many places one senses that Singleton's trying just a bit to hard to make the characters too off the wall, and the whole exercise can then seem a bit too contrived However, a gem of a moment shortly follow and redeems the whole exercise.
On the whole a good read. If Singleton can improve on overall consistency he'll be a first class short story writer. However, at this point he's very good, and that's better than most.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Guild on January 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
A great collection of stories about the people and things that go on in the little town of Forty-Five,South Carolina. Now, if you go looking for this little place ,you won't find any such town.But; if you are observant and spend the time,you'll find it anywhere. As a matter of fact ,to the people like you meet in this little gem;there is not a thing about any of this that is unusual. That's just what people and things are like anywhere,aren't they?
Here you are going to enjoy 14 stories,all exactly 20 pages long,that cover things that are only too real if one only has the ability to observe them happening.Any one of them could have been expanded to fill a book. To the people involved,it is only the ordinary occurrences of daily life.
To be a writer, one first of all must be an observer;and Singleton shows that he is both of these in his storytelling.From reading this book,I concluded that if you were to set Singleton down in just about any small town,he could soon observe goings on and people that could fill a book like this.
One of my favorite personalities was Jean Shepherd . He was one of the best when it came to observing and telling stories about ordinary people and things. He had a TV series,"Jean Shepherd's America",wrote several books books,wrote a movie "The Christmas Story"(a classic),had a nightly radio show on WOR New York in the 70's.Check him out if you liked this book. "Shep" left us a number of yesars ago,but Singleton may just be the one who is going to replace him.
What a great,entertaining storyteller!!
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