I was recently in Chicago visiting my old friend Aaron (formerly of The Warriors). Aaron, a native of the Charleston area and son of a retired coal miner, is currently an instructor of creative writing at Columbia College. During my visit, Aaron was nearing the end this book - Tristan Egolf's Lord of the Barnyard: Killing the Fatted Calf and Arming the Aware in the Cornbelt. Lord of the Barnyard is a fictional biography/history of farm boy John Kaltenbrunner and the Appalachian-affected Middle America coal town of Baker from where he comes.
Salon wrote of Egolf's 1999 debut novel: "He practices a form of shotgun writing -- aim in the right direction and spray words on the page -- always searching for another country-fried turn of phrase that will one-up his last one. Egolf mixes fable, metaphor and pure anger to attack mob mentality, class warfare, the mindless media and the just-under-the-surface madness of the Midwest. His brilliantly warped, pedal-to-the-metal vision has the obsessive quirkiness of a Pynchon, the rough-and-tumble bad-assness of a Daniel Woodrell and more than a malignant touch of the Faulkner who created the Snopeses."
I'm nearly half-way through the book's 400 pages, and my anticipation builds with every new paragraph. In fact, I missed my bus stop yesterday because I was so entrenched in what was going to happen to Kaltenbrunner next. Though the author or the story have no significant relationship to West Virginia (one minor but memorable character is a Mountain State native), Lord of the Barnyard does ring of Appalachian characteristics familiar to anyone from the region. I highly recommend it. Thanks, Aaron.