This is probably my favourite book of all time. I gave a copy to a friend who is *very* demanding about what he reads, who has published a bajillion books (mostly historical fiction, under a variety of names) and who has worked as an editor for Doubleday, and he said it was the first book he'd read in years in which he didn't want to change anything, not even a comma.
Part of what makes it so wonderful is that all these characters really ask of life is to have each other. They dream of winning a competition, sure, and Buddy wants to be a tap dancer, but we know those kinds of dreams; Buddy may dream of tap-dancing, but all he really asks of life is a new kite for Christmas. And then when Buddy loses his friend--it's heartbreaking.
It's a gem. We see just a few days, but each moment is polished, and they glitter in the light the author shows them in. I think my favourite bit is when they meet Mr Ha-Ha Jones, and there again, it's the contrast between expectations: they will go get the booze from Mrs Ha-Ha, but they encounter the man himself. At the speakeasy, Buddy's friend says "Mrs Ha-Ha, Ma'am? Anyone to home?" -- unexpected language for that place--it's charming. And after the tense encounter, we get Ha-Ha's kindness, and another polite, understated response: "We'll put an extra cup of raisins in his cake".
I've got chunks of the book memorized, I think, just from re-reading. The first time I ever heard of the book, I was walking across a college campus in Kentucky on a dark night a week or so before Christmas, and ran into some younger students who were going to the college chapel for one of them to read something to the others. They invited me along and I went, having no idea what this was about -- it wasn't a performance, anything announced, just this guy from Alabama was going to read the story out loud to some friends and they decided the deserted chapel would be the right place for it. It. Was. Magical. The perfect introduction to the book. One of those serendipitous experiences that you never forget.
(Happy sigh.) My favourite book.
posted 5 months ago. ( permalink )