Monday, April 25, 2016

Dimestore by Lee Smith

Where in the world have I been???

I don't expect that you've asked that, but I just realized that I'd slipped up and failed to publish my review of Lee Smith's new memoir, Dimestore.

It would be horrible if you wrote off my delinquency to lack of enthusiasm; it has been more a matter of my having been so delighted by it that trying to review it seemed like trying to review a charming visit with an old friend. 

I don't know Ms. Smith; I'd be stretching the truth even to say that I'd been one of her particularly avid fans. My sister-in-law strongly suggested I read this one, though, and passed it along to me as she obviously knew I'd eat it with a spoon. 

When Ms. Smith begins talking about the formative role movies played in her development as a writer I knew I was not in the hands of a literary snob. 

Was anything ever as scary 
as Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Or as sad as Imitation of Life?

Well, those two films are on my lifetime Top Ten list, so I sensed that now Lee and I understood each other. I mean, even now, if I need a cathartic cry I queue up Imitation of Life (the version starring Juanita Moore, Lana Turner, Sandra Dee, James Gavin, and Susan Kohner, featuring Mahalia Jackson as the funeral soloist), and I begin weepin' and wailin' the minute the opening credits begin. 

This is the sort of memoir I'd write if (a) I were a writer, or (b) had anything interesting to say. This is a life told in snapshots and snatches of memories of people and places and episodes. It's like all the best Southern conversations, eschewing linear structure, relying instead on jumping off places. Each chapter is wholly satisfying, and each shares not only some insight into what made Ms. Smith a writer but offers the tantalizing possibility that the reader might have what it takes, too, if we will just own our stories. 

What a gift. Please do yourself a favor and read this one. 

Algonquin Books
Publication Date: March 2016

1 comment:

  1. adding this to my potential book group suggestion list