FW: May 25 Advertiser column [Alabama author Bart Barton]
- fyi..aj wright // ajwright@...
From: Capitol Book [mailto:capitolbook@...]
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2003 10:07 AM
To: Capitol Book
Subject: May 25 Advertiser column
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER COLUMN May 25, 2003
Words fail us. We are pleased, we are delighted, we are thrilled, we are
happy, we are really, really happy to announce the publication of "A Broken
Thing," the first novel, after his much lauded 2001 short story collection
"The Dry Well," for Montgomery writer Bart Barton.
Montgomery writer? That doesn't really describe Bart. While it's true he
lives in Montgomery, and it's true he writes in Montgomery, and it's even
true that some of this new novel is set in Montgomery, his writing is not
really of Montgomery. Instead, it's firmly rooted in the rural soil of the
west Alabama Black Belt, over around Eutaw and Sawyerville and Stewart, and
Forkland, places poor in everything except what matters to a writer -
And what a story Bart tells in "A Broken Thing." The thing broken is a
family, Laura and Conrad, their fourteen year old son, Seth, and Laura's son
from a previous marriage, Michael. When Laura and Conrad divorce, it
separates not only the parents, but everyone. Conrad moves with Seth back
to his childhood home in the small town of Demarville, Alabama, moving in
with his own parents. Nineteen year old Michael heads off on his own,
wondering for the first time about his "real" father, whom he has never met,
while Laura stays on alone in their Montgomery house.
The story is told in five different voices, by Laura, Conrad, Seth, Michael
and Grandmother May. As the story unfolds, we quickly learn that what one
person sees, another may not, and what one remembers, another forgets.
Despite each narrator telling the truth as he or she perceives it, the real
truth is not easy to know.
Laura decides to fight for custody of Seth, but losing his son is not
something that Conrad could bear, and the legal and emotional battle takes a
terrible toll on everyone. In Demarville, Seth spends time working in his
grandfather's small general store, his only friend Bobby, a boy from the
other side of the tracks. Bobby's boisterous family is completely different
from Seth's quiet one. His parents fight constantly, but seem happy. His
older sister, Frances, is beautiful and friendly to the lonely Seth.
Meanwhile, Michael cannot keep a job, visits his real father and finds out
some unhappy truths about himself. Sound like anybody you know?
It is a compelling story and every development feels real. Each character's
voice is unique, and even though they (like the rest of us) are not always
wise or kind, we come to care for each of them just as we do for our own
imperfect family and friends. "A Broken Thing" is a wonderful book, and are
we glad it is. After all, we've waited thirteen years for it!
We've told this story before, but not for some time. We first met Bart in
1990. He was just home from earning his MFA in writing from Wichita State
University, and so he came to the old store downtown to apply for a job as a
bookstore clerk, the only job for which such an MFA qualifies a person.
Well, that's not fair. He also taught part time at AUM, and at Huntingdon,
and all the time, of course, he was also doing his real job, writing the
stories he'd stored up from his years growing up over in Forkland.
To make a very long story short, in about a year he sold his first story,
then waited for four more years until it was actually published and he
received his first royalty check, for $125. That's even less per hour than
we paid back in those days!
But then things started happening. More and more of his stories were
published, one was included in the prestigious O. Henry collection, another
won the Andrew Lytle prize, and finally a small publisher, Frederic Beil,
saw the light and published a collection of Bart's stories, "The Dry Well,
"in 2001. That collection only won the Dictionary of Literary Biography
Yearbook Award, selected by George Garrett, for the best first collection of
short stories for 2001. Not the Pulitzer, but a very prestigious award in
the literary world.
And now a great first novel! We could not be prouder had we written it
ourselves. And we're also proud that Bart's first stop on his extensive tour
for this book will be at our store, on Thursday, June 5, from 5-7 PM. You
really ought to come meet him.
Capitol Book & News Company
1140 E. Fairview Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36106