Well, then. So begins The Store, by T. S. Stribling, which (my copy, at least) announces itself on its cover to be “a stirring novel of the post-Reconstruction South”. I’ve gotten as far as the third paragraph, and already I can see that 1) this is going to be another sexist novel, based on the way the Colonel and his wife are presented and interact, and 2) this is also going to be a stereotypical and badly written novel. The third paragraph not only refers to the Colonel’s wife casually as “the heavy woman” but then goes on for sentences about how, as a fat woman, she’s obviously naturally outgoing, and really likes being in loud social gatherings like other fat people do. Stribling’s got his thesaurus open, so she’s called not only “heavy” and “fat”, but “fleshy” and “ponderous”, all within a sentence or two of each other. I wish I was joking, but I’m giving it to you pretty straight. This may be a “chug down my medicine” book, but it’s a long thing, and it’s hard to move fast through this dreck.
Some brief thoughts (other than “Kyrie eleison”)—I suspected before I even got to paragraph three that any novel whose main character’s name is “Miltiades” is either going to be excellent or awful. Seriously, isn’t “Miltiades” a name you expect from a novel set in the magical land of Eregoss, where the evil lord Dwildrim will be vanquished by Prince Miltiades’s mighty blade? I presume his mother called him “Milt”.
This is yet another (saints preserve us) middle book from a ponderous trilogy—the Victorians had the three-volume novel, Americans (in the 20s and 30s, at least) have the trilogy set in the same little town. I know that The Magnificent Ambersons (awful) and Early Autumn (decent but shaky) were Pulitzer-winning middle novels. I think there was at least one other, so far. I can’t help but see it as dirty pool: it’s hard enough enjoying most of these, without being disoriented also.
This is at least (I can say one good thing about it) a person writing what they know. Stribling’s setting his novel in the north Alabama country where he grew up, and this particular novel’s set in the late Gilded Age of his childhood (the action begins when he would have been three years old). An Alabaman writing about Alabama right after the Yankees were sent home and the white folk “took back their state”? Well, I’ll get some insights into a worldview, I guess. Keep your head low, though, Stribling. I sense a disaster of McLaughlin-level proportions in the near future, and I won’t be shy about my opinions.