you must first create the universe.
-- Carl Sagan --
When I heard that Leonard Pitts, Jr., had a new novel out, I leapt to buy it. I didn't know he wrote fiction. [Hmmm. Spellcheck doesn't like "leapt". That's a perfectly good word!] I also bought two other of his books that I hadn't known existed. [So much for not expanding the book collection....]
I have adored Pitts for decades. I first read his nationally syndicated column in a Washington newspaper**, and then when I moved to NY was pleased to find it in the local rag, the "(town) Freeman". The man always managed to speak my thoughts. When the local paper was acquired by some big conservative conglomerate and Pitts' column was replaced by that of some rabble-rousing Rush Limbaugh wannabe who went off in half-cocked indignation with no research and little respect for facts, I was unhappy. The internet was fairly new then, so Pitts sort of dropped out of my sight. I'd almost forgotten him.
In the meantime, he'd been awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, and had written a few books. Mr. Pitts, I am very pleased to meet you again.
The new book is Freeman (absolutely no relationship to that local paper!). I'm about 2/3 of the way through it now. It is well written and absorbing, pretty much what I expected of Leonard Pitts. You don't want to put it down - and that's a problem, because it's in no way a romance or fairy tale. It's brutal. It's painful. I'm afraid that by the time I finish this I will hate all southerners, and the entire southern half of the US. The author has subtlety made me aware that for a large part of that population, the old attitudes haven't changed in the past 150 years, and I hate them for that. His characters explain why they feel that way, which may be an excuse immediately after the Civil War, when the story takes place, but it's no longer an excuse. Stupidity is the only remaining excuse.
As I said, it's well written and absorbing. The speech patterns and verbal reticence of the educated northerners is annoyingly stilted, but if Pitts says that's the way they communicated back then, I'll accept it.
** Correction. He didn't start writing his social commentary column until the mid-nineties, so I would not have discovered him in the Washington paper. I was in New York by then.