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My People's Waltz Paperback – Bargain Price, October 31, 2000
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At first glance, Dale Ray Phillips appears to be cut from the classic Southern storyteller's cloth. That is, he's got a fine colloquial style, an assortment of Dixie-fried settings scattered throughout North Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas, and the sort of heightened, occasionally grotesque approach to character that seems to flourish below the Mason-Dixon line. But Phillips is much too talented a writer to pigeonhole. And My People's Waltz, which is billed as a collection of linked stories, is an extraordinary debut.
We first meet Richard, the narrator, at age 8. In the wake of his mother's mental illness--which has caused her abrupt disappearance into a sanatorium--the miserable child has fallen into a state of muteness. "Not talking don't make you special," one young relative cautions him. Happily for the reader, though, Richard's silence leaves him no less observant:
My grandfather kept his floozy in a silver Airstream above the bend in the river where the dead crossed over. He had finagled Miss Minnie a job as lifetime caretaker of a little patch of no-man's-land and a cemetery just across the Haw River. Whenever a black tenant farmer died, we watched from the trailer's picture window as a slipshod barge fashioned of dye-barrel pontoons and salvaged lumber ferried the coffin and mourners across the river to the grave.By the end of "Why I'm Talking," Richard regains his powers of speech. Yet his other wounds--the kind inflicted by the spectator sport of family life--are slower to heal. He grows up, comes to terms with his parents, and has his own trip through the wringer of love and marriage ("On Friday, Lisa points out that I've been drunk since signing the divorce papers"). What never fails him, or the reader, is the voice that Dale Ray Phillips has honed: eloquent, funny, and invariably forgiving. --William Davies --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Each of the 10 stories of this collection drew accolades when they first appeared in prominent literary journals, but reading them together reveals the way they meld into a darkly funny and lyrical narrative. With one exception, the stories follow narrator Richard chronologically from childhood through adolescence, into college, marriage, parenthood and divorce. Richard is a Southerner, a wanderer making and escaping homes from North Carolina to Arkansas to Texas and back. Indeed, the tug of geography is the one constant in Richard's life. He teaches college students that each person carries "a love map, a sketchy cartography formed in childhood which outlines the topography of the people to whom we will surrender our hearts." His grandfather, a retired judge, lives by the Haw River with a secret "floozy"; his traveling salesman father and suicidal mother torment themselves with their repeated separations and reconciliations; Richard himself marries up only to learn that upward mobility doesn't ease the difficult work of keeping love alive. Richard's people?hard drinking, smoking, carp-fishing, shady men and cuckolding, pliant women?hold onto one another long after love no longer works. In one memorable scene, Richard plays a game called "electricity" with his mother: he grabs a hot wire with one hand, his mother's hand with the other; as the conductor he feels nothing. The reader is not so grounded: Phillips's prose flashes powerful unpredictability with every delicious little shock. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Still, My People's Waltz showcases the extraordinary talent of Dale Phillips and his slant on the Southern fiction writer. The stories each draw you into to the characters' lives and force you to care for them, while the sad humor attempts to lighten the underlying message.
This is a "must read." Start immediately.
Dale Ray Phillips is a fine writer, and his style encompasses sympathy for his characters and wisdom as to their circumstances. He describes his characters: "A people like mine were not pleasure-fearing Pilgrims, nor the landed aristocracy of the Virginians who would write the Constitution...We became whatever the new landscape required: reluctant but rum-fortified revolutionary soldiers; willing purveyors of smallpox-infested blankets...traders of horses and human flesh." These "owners of damaged dreams" don't stumble through life; they make war on it. They love hard, recklessly, and without consequence. Their unions, emotional, familial or sexual, are intense and unlasting. They lie, cheat and steal with abandon. But, Philipps makes them appealing to us. Richard, his failed father, his emotionally-damaged mother, his frustrated wife Lisa -- all of them contain that quality of humanity which ultimately bonds them to us.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Dale Ray Phillips knows how to construct a story from the ground up: gorgeous sentences, fully human characters, a deep sense of place. Wonderful. Enough said.Published on August 26, 2014 by Heather
Dale's book, from the word go, is astonishing. His control of of craft is clear. By this, I mean that he understands character's nuance, plot's highs and lows, Bill Harrison's... Read morePublished on September 7, 2000 by Michael Gills
I thought this an excellent and very moving collection of shortstories. This collection is full of music. Read morePublished on March 27, 2000
A primer on what's wrong with contemporary American fiction. Okay, you're from the South, but that doesn't make you a good writer. Read morePublished on January 7, 2000 by D. C. Carrad
One of the strongest, best-crafted, and memorable collections of stories I've ever read.Published on October 30, 1999