T.S. Stribling – The Store

I would like to look back and figure out just how many different ways in which I have read books throughout this project. One of the interesting things to do in the process of this project is to look back and see how our lives have changed over the course of this project, but thing that I have really kept track of is how many different ways I have read these books. It has been well document over the course of these  posts that I have the tragically ironic allergy to book dust which I assume developed because of this project. One of the stipulations that Drew and I created for ourselves is that we would have to find all of these books in person and would also have to find all of these books second hand. That had Drew and I scouring all of the used bookstores in Illinois and some what in other parts of the country. I bought 3 books for this project in New Orleans, our white whale of a book Our Family in Port Washington, WA. We found our last book in Grand Rapids, MI I believe. I had my eyes and nose pressed firmly in the annals of used bookstore stacks, some of which were in ill-repair and stacked three deep on shelves. Many times, Drew and I would be stirring up dust that probably hadn’t been disturbed in years. Through all of these, I have come away with a crippling allergy to the books themselves, so I have had to get creative with how I have had to read these books.

This latest book, T.S. Stribling’s 1933 winner The Store is my most creative solution yet. The Store seemed never to have been reprinted, perhaps once in the late 1970’s though I have never seen evidence of this, but that was a University Press which is probably not in great condition anywhere attainable to me. Nevertheless, I decided as I worked then at my college’s library to physically scan the entire 571 page book into a pdf and email it to myself. I have had this pdf in my possession for what seems like a long time perhaps a year or two, and I have finally gotten around to reading it. I have recently switched phone from an iPhone to an Android phone, and I discovered that I could read pdf in a decent format on my Android phone in Google Play books. I enjoyed the format and read the entire book that way. There were several parts of what I did that made reading this way fairly inconvenient, but I found that I did not have any trouble sinking my teeth into this story at points. Given that I am using my phone and emails, phone calls, and texts were hard to ignore on my phone as they would take over my screen while reading, I probably will not read a long work of fiction on my phone again.

Now, onto the review. I called Drew shortly after completing this book. We talked for sometime about the nature of this book, and our general reactions to it, and as it has been documented throughout this project, we had very similar reactions to it. Drew had to go back and reread his review as this book is entirely forgettable. I found this book confusing. Drew pointed out that it is part of a trilogy. It is a trilogy that I have no interest in pursuing. This is the second book in the trilogy which are typically cliffhangers. The cliff this book is hanging over is dramatic, but does not spur me onward to finishing the series. Even if I had the remotest interest in reading on, which I do not, I would never be able to find the other books. This one was difficult enough. I may have seen T.S. Stribling’s name in print one or two other times in the course of the hunt, and that is saying something as Drew and I have seen a lot of books in our searching. I do not have much to say about this book. Throughout the entire book, I kept vacillating between this book being, in contemporary language would call, twee and farcical. Drew and I couldn’t come down on either angle in this regard. So many times the issues at hand seem so belabored that I felt they might have been farcical in that they took these characters, well rounded characters at that, and put them in fantastic, unreal circumstances that made them less round at times. There were sentences in this book that dazzled me. There were terms and concepts that I was genuinely interested in. I may pursue a work of long fiction of a concept that I discovered in the reading of this book. I asked people of Facebook about certain terms and language used in this book. My father’s kinfolk are from Alabama and so I enjoyed the place names and the setting immensely even though this was an ugly time to be alive in that area of the world, and yet I couldn’t find the muster to care at times for the ways and means of these characters.

I hoped for something greater for this book, and it did not deliver in the end. I think that the ending belies any notion of a farce which would be the only saving grace for this book. It is not a bad book, it’s not even an average book. The writing is strong, the pacing is strong at times, and it whipped past at point that I had to slow down and reread passages as I enjoyed the dark humor of certain situations. This book captures perfectly at times the dark farcical nature of living and growing up in a small town that many other attempts seek to make it quaint. I really enjoy portions of the book that bring those things to life in very real and enjoyable ways. The lynching and racial tension in this book is palpable. The fever of mankind’s darker natures collected is real and visceral at times, but again I felt the Colonel was hapless and unlikeable at times which ground on me at times, and the moral compass of this book seemed to be awash with the characters often which was frustrating. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone except for a time piece of great words and customs of Southern/Small Town people, and even then there would be hesitations. If anyone came up to me and said to me they were going to read this book, I don’t think I would dissuade them, but ask them why.

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