Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Berendt, John (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)

I find it hard to write this review because I did not know this was non-fiction. I hang my head in shame. I mean, I *never* knew this was non-fiction. How is that possible? It's not as if I wasn't aware of the book, or it hasn't been talked about in our book club prior to putting it on the list. Even worse, I was still confused after reading almost half the book - for some reason I thought he was just making up these characters. There's no excuse - I was just being especially thick and dopey this time around.

So because I didn't walk into this book understanding it was essentially journalism, my view of it seems tainted by whatever-color glasses I apparently was wearing. I can see how Berendt is building the story using only descriptions and conversations with the protagonists and community members themselves. I can see that he's pretty darn good at it. I can see that it's Capote-esque, but that it doesn't quite live up to his high ideal (Capote's descriptions were poetic, Berendt's serve the purpose and not much more). I was intrigued and interested in the the fate of Mr. Williams - and his denouement - it kept me going towards the end.

But I wasn't ever enthralled. It didn't suck me in. I could put this book down at a moment's notice and not pick it up until I realized that I better get going as I had 200 pages to finish in the 3 days before book club. While I thought the characters were fascinating, I couldn't agree with Berendt's supposition at the end of the book that the segregation of Savannah from the rest of the country made them a richer society. I thought it made them weirder and less intriguing as a result.

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