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Why Dogs Chase Cars: Tales of a Beleaguered Boyhood (Shannon Ravenel Books) Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 17, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: Shannon Ravenel Books
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: A Shannon Ravenel Book; First Edition edition (September 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124042
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,383,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A precocious Southern boy tries to come to terms with his father's odd legacy in this first novel by short-story writer Singleton (The Half-Mammals of Dixie; etc.), a quirky coming-of-age yarn set in the tiny town of Forty-Five, S.C., in the 1970s. Mendal's mother runs off to Nashville when he's just a baby, leaving his father, an eccentric jack of all trades, to raise the boy alone. Mendal's upbringing makes it hard for him to fit in—"I had a reputation for being some kind of loner hermit freak at Forty-Five High School because my father made me read all of Durkheim and Marx and recite it daily"—but he has a few good friends: acerbic Shirley Ebo, "the only black girl preintegration at Forty-Five Elementary," and Compton Lane, also motherless. Much of the novel is an excuse for Singleton to string together a series of loosely connected anecdotes peopled by characters who might have stepped out of the pages of a Flannery O'Connor novel. At the center of most is Mendal's father, who alternately flummoxes and delights his son with his strange habits, playing pranks on neighbors he dislikes and compulsively burying random objects in the yard. Like a gentler Harry Crews, Singleton explores the backwaters of Southern life in this offbeat, episodic novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Singleton's tales of southern eccentrics have always balanced bursts of hilarity with a compelling heft and complexity of feeling. In these stories, arranged to form a biography of Mendal Dawes of Forty-Five, South Carolina (last seen in The Half-Mammals of Dixie, 2002), the author offers something like a seven-to-one measure of laughs and epiphanies, and that's a well-mixed cocktail. Mendal's father is defiant of both religion and country-club mentality, a believer in social justice but also an oddball capitalist who stacks, buries, and otherwise hoards junk and buys desolate parcels of land for their certain future value. Mendal's own head seems only half screwed on at times, but his growing pains, while universal, are treated with freshness and Eli Whitney-like inventiveness. In between swipes at homogeneity and herd mentality, Singleton creates a dead-on portrait of the way we carry our childhoods into adulthood and how, despite vows to leave small towns, we can end up back home, still running, like stray dogs hoping a passing car will stop and give us a ride somewhere else. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jenn on October 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Being from the South I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I'm not sure if it takes another Southerner to appreciate the hilarity in this book, but I doubt it. I laughed so hard I almost hated it when my metro stop arrived! I know the other riders thought I was insane. The tale of a boy growing up in 1970 South Carolina with a father who just really isn't all there. Tales of his father burying items in the back yard to antics of simple-minded, backward-town folk kept me rolling. This book is a quick read not only because of the length of book but because you just can't put it down - waiting for the next laugh, which just a paragraph away.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bookczuk on August 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
A while back, I heard an interview with George Singleton on the radio, reading from his book The Halk-Mammals of Dixie. The clip was so funny, that I rushed out and bought the book (which is worth the purchase price for the title alone!)

When this book fell into my hands, I didn't realize at first it was the same author, until I read the blurb on the back cover. This book is a collection of stories, which flow together quite nicely, and evoke so clearly the quirkiness of some of our small southern towns. Maybe it takes a certain type of Southerner to appreciate this fully, but I think that 'most anyone could.

The stories all are told by Mendal Dawes, who is raised by his eccentric (some might say drunken or plain out loony-tunes) dad after his mother skipped town . Mendal's greatest desire is to escape from his hometown of Forty-Five SC. The stories take the reader through Mendal's childhood there, where his father buries stuff (ie fake Burma shave signs advertising a Baptist church, yard sticks in preparation for the conversion to the metric system, and other random objects) in their backyard, creates a fake toxic waste dump nearby to stymie future land developers, makes Mendal recite Marx and Durkheim, and dreams up scads of other oddball plots and schemes. Mendal is periodically aided and abetted by his friend Compton (also motherless, whose father is Mendal's dad's drinking buddy) and Shirley Ebo ('the only black girl preintegration at Forty-Five Elementary'). One thing for sure...I'll never look at Chinese Handcuffs in the same way.

And why do dogs chase cars? "They can't form a noose without opposable thumbs. They don't know how to turn on the gas in the kitchen. It's impossible for them to slit their wrists. They don't have trigger fingers." But ultimately, maybe it's because, like Mendal, they just want to get out of town.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Turit on September 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No, you do not have to be a Southerner to love George Singleton's stories. You just have to appreciate excellent writing and quirky stories. I am not even American. Singleton's stories make me happy because in them I meet Americans that don't fit the mold of the SUV-driving suburbanite, and the stories are a riot.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overall an okay read but I found it to drag a bit in places. Reminded me a lot of Barry Hannah's Geronimo Rex but didn't pull it off as well as that classic. I enjoyed the SC references though, and there were some truly originally humorous bits.
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By cecile dixon on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great read. George Singleton can weave a tale like nobody else. With him you never know whart to expect except that it will be an interesting ride. Write on Geporge, write on.
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