12.30.2006

HH Com 644

A young homeowner renovating a once-proud three-story house in midtown Memphis discovers an old notebook buried beneath bulging bricks in a backyard patio. The notebook is wrapped in a yellow rain slicker stuffed inside a crumbling newspaper carrier’s bag.

The moldy notebook at first appears to contain handwritings of different people, but the homeowner soon realizes the writer is a 13-year-old boy who took over a friend’s paper route for a month in the summer of 1959.

The 45-year-old notebook, comprising the bulk of the novel, tells of events that month, including the boy’s first sexual encounter, a fatal throat slashing and the story of a mysterious man who tips the paperboy each week with a piece of a dollar bill, each quarter of the bill containing a different word starting with “s”. The boy’s companion on this month-long journey is the family housekeeper who knows more than those around her realize.

The notebook is written in the boy’s dysfunctional but unencumbered speech that includes non-words, comedic turns of phrase and a unique love-hate relationship with language.

The climax for the reader involves the surprise connection between the homeowner and the 13-year-old boy.

A central theme of “A Quartering of Souls” is the convoluted ways in which we attempt to communicate. Sub-themes include a fresh look at the segregated South, the pathology of a speech impediment and a discordant look at several literary classics.

This is a description of the book; it's not a hook. We've been raking you over the coals since Crapometer 1 so one thing I can say in your favor: you've got a distinctive story cause I remember it.

Talk about the story. Use the XYZ form to help you focus. Leave OUT the description of what the writing is like. If you can carry it off we'll figure it out when we're reading the pages.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What intrigued me: the notebook's wrappings, the 1959 paperboy, the murder, and the big, old house.

What turned me off: the description of the boy's writing. The pidgin English in a lot of these Crapometer submissions is bad enough; I don't want to read writing that's horrible on purpose. Also tiring is the prospect of third-hand narrative: paperboy to homeowner to reader. However, I can imagine this being done well.

Plus I would not personally enjoy reading about thirteen-year-olds having sex. Ugh.

Once you've whittled your description into a sharp hook, I think this story will have a wide appeal.

verification: ukcan! Go UK!

I Said said...

Yes, ya gotta, gotta write a good hook on this one 'cause it sounds like the book is a winner.

Helen said...

Surely an unusual way of handling language could be an important reason to make a book stand out? The "description of what the writing is like" seemed very relevant to me.

Michele said...

One problem I have with this hook is that the two protagonists (homeowner and boy) seem very distant to me....I don't even know their names.

Anonymous said...

Why is it necessary to have the homeowner discovering and relaying the story. Why can't we just live in the past with the 13 year old boy telling us his story? Much more powerful that way. IMHO.

verification: pugdhf: sound made when punched in stomach for ridiculous opinions.

Anonymous said...

Anon, you ever been a thirteen year old boy having sex. Hell, it's over is six seconds. And you can write about it in one sentence.

WOW!

Haste yee back ;-)

Southern Writer said...

Midtown Memphis! Why don't I know you?
And why I am having an uncanny sense of deja vu? Give me a shout, will you?

Fuchsia Groan said...

Dysfunctional English can be a lot of fun in fiction, if the author pulls it off. I saw a story like that in the New Yorker ("Jon" by George Saunders) and instantly knew I wanted to read on, because the writing sounded like a mishmash of kids on MTV Spring Break and the worst college papers I had to grade. The author made his points about cultural illiteracy, etc. using creatively fractured English.

OK, maybe it's an acquired taste. But if the agent is into this, he/she will only be able to tell by reading a sample of the boy's narrative. Is there a way to incorporate the boy's voice into the hook without making the hook into a mess? Maybe just quote a couple of sentences in his voice?