Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Miss Corpus Hardcover – February 5, 2003
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
Top customer reviews
Clay weaves these psychotic endeavors with a calm normality that is amazingly disturbing. This book explores abnormal subjects and social constructs that make you think: could this really happen? Are there people like this in the world? And I have to say yes. When a writer explores almost unspeakable actions and thought patterns in a real world, it is refreshing and eye-opening.
If you're looking for something different that makes you think and question your own psychological being, read "miss corpus."
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." Along his way, he casts light on the lives of other refugees from the "real" world-the turnpike attendant who gives birth in the tollbooth; the boy who tosses live animals into the paths of passing cars, making them pull into his dad's motel; and others like them. Onward he hurtles, into the embrace of his northbound mate, Philip.
Philip has held vigil for years, waiting for his asthmatic son to return home with his van full of friends. During the wait, his marriage sank deeper than the van where the cops found it, submerged just off the road in a swamp. Chapman goes about as long as he ever has without shocking us here, but he makes up for it when Philip opens the van after it is winched out of the swamp: "Kevin's head fell forward, the neck snapping, his skull dropping. It landed directly into the cup of my hands." Philip takes off with his son on that road trip they never took, following the pulse northward.
As the two men head toward each other, Chapman turns the narrative over to MISS CORPUS. With that switch, he creates a narrative device which transforms a tale of dismembered bodies and dysfunctional lives into a story about the birth of a book, about life. In his best sustained writing, Chapman takes us into the making of the book, "Getting to the heart of what I have to say-the words circulating through my body, cover to cover. You're raising me with your imagination. Your eyes are my lifeblood, every turn of the page another pulse perusing through my body." With the collision imminent, all the elements whirl around-the incident that sparked the book, characters "...staining the bedspread with patches of paragraphs," I-95 as an umbilical cord-until out pops a "bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked tome." As the two cars collide, the coming together becomes not an end, but a beginning-the point at which this story really started. Like a literary big bang, we are back where every moment MISS CORPUS was "destined to live" has been pinpointed for her, and now, for us. Chapman actually produces a moment of exhilaration as the two men lying by the road recognize their part in the production. They smile, knowing that the reader is giving MISS CORPUS life: "When you read me, I can feel my heart beating," she says. Although not a taste for every literary palate, MISS CORPUS will satisfy those with a hankering for the unusual. Those are the people who read this and say as she does: "Sounds like a good read to me."
This is not to say that the book is without challenge. "Miss Corpus" is gory. Lots of people die in it. Even birth is described in disgusting detail. But what Chapman is doing is revealing the bloody chaos of our everyday world, and showing a group of character's (only marginally successful) attempts to remain human within the tragedy of our lives. This sometimes leads to comedy that a few may find in poor taste, but since the comedy flows organically from the characters and situations, I found it hard to be offended.
"Miss Corpus" also does not easily fit into anyone's idea of a genre, but this speaks highly of Chapman, I feel. It challenges our Ready Made cultural associations by being many different kinds of book at the same time. The narrative structure is really different, consisting of multiple first person narratives that come together in a rewarding collage rather than simply moving from point A to B to C.
What Chapman has acheived is a book about everyday emotions viewed through extreme circumstances. "Miss Corpus" is ultimately about love in many different forms, and I loved it. I hope you do too. Pick it up! It's worth it.
Most recent customer reviews
+ 4 gratuitously gross subplots
+ unlimited, pretentious wordplay
+ 3 stereotypical narrators...Read more