Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Small Town of the Mind

kw: book reviews, fiction, short stories, collaborative narratives

The book has ten authors. The town is Mossy Creek, with the motto, "Ain't goin nowhere and don't want to." This little, unmapped spot in Georgia is billed as "The kind of town where everyone wishes they could live."

Reunion at Mossy Creek was written by Deborah Smith, Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon, Virginia Ellis, Martha Shields, Nancy Knight, Carolyn McSparren, Dee Sterling, Carmen Green, and Sharon Sala. Among them, they have evoked the voices of twenty "Creekites". This is the second Mossy Creek book; the first had fewer authors. I suppose I'll have to look it up. I like the writing, and the kind of people the authors present to us (mostly).

The story, told as serial stream-of-consciousness short chapters with a few letters interspersed, recalls the big town mystery: the burning of Mossy Creek High School, twenty years before. Along the way, a few adjunct mysteries are taken up, a missing elephant and a ten-cent carnival Gypsy mechanism among them. Along the way, a modern Sasquatch makes an appearance (and gets the girl), and a smattering of corrupt politicos get a comeuppance.

Mossy Creek is a archetypal small town of which a friend once told this story:
A traveling salesman stopped to ask a man, "What's the next town like? Are the people friendly?" The man asked back, "What was the last town like?" "Oh, it was really good. My stuff sold well, and I think I made a friend or two. The people were very cooperative." The fellow said, "I reckon you'll find the town up ahead is much the same." Perhaps you can guess the rest. When another salesman asked the man the same questions, and was asked "What was the last town like?", he replied, "Oh, I had a rough time there. They people were suspicious and uncooperative. I barely sold anything." The fellow said, "I reckon you'll find the town up ahead is much the same."
The difference in these authors' Mossy Creek is that they don't let the unpleasant folks stay unpleasant, if they can at all help it. It is unrealistic, I know, but it does make for an enjoyable book.

One of the authors, Sharon Sala, who "voiced" Orville Gene Simple, is a humorist to challenge Mark Twain. Her Orville Gene chapter pits man versus beaver in the funniest "just when you thought it couldn't get worse" story I've read in decades. It requires an act of God (or of Thor) to conclude matters short of Orville's demise.

This book came out in 2003, and is the second in the series. The first Mossy Creek book had five authors; the third is Summer in Mossy Creek, with twelve authors; the fourth, A Day in Mossy Creek has ten authors(not all the same as this book); the fifth, Blessings of Mossy Creek, has the four "base authors": Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon, Virginia Ellis, Martha Shields, "and others"; and the sixth, out this year, is At Home in Mossy Creek, with six authors. The authors call their work "collective novels." Worth the reading.

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