Bone by Bone: Shadow Country Trilogy (3)
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"Watson's voice is an artistic triumph. . .[Bone by Bone] may well come to be regarded as a classic." --San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
In Bone by Bone, Peter Matthiessen speaks in the extraordinary voice of the enigmatic and dangerous E. J. Watson, whom we first saw, obliquely, through the eyes of his early twentieth-century Everglades community in Killing Mister Watson.
This astonishing new novel, calling to account the violence, virulent racism, and destruction of the land that fueled the so-called American Dream, points an accusing finger straight into the burning eyes of Uncle Sam. Here is the bloodied child of the Civil War and Reconstruction who dreams of recovering the family plantation. He becomes the gifted cane planter nearing success on a wilderness river when he gives in fatally to his accumulating demons. Powerfully imagined, prodigiously detailed, Bone by Bone is a literary tour de force as bold and ambitious as Watson himself.
"Like a true tragic figure, [Watson] knows and understands; he does not wriggle to save his own skin," said The New York Times. "This is a work of genuine dignity."
his own threats, but the one thing a ridge runner never forgot, dead drunk or sober, was retribution. * One day, Sam rode over to the Junction and cussed out my old friend Will Cox, just sat high up on his red horse and shot off his mouth across the yard. Will Cox was a good-looking man with a hank of black hair like horse mane across his forehead, lanky and clean-shaven, always calm and polite right up to the last moment. And here was this fat and filthy Tolen hollering for all to hear how
and Willie, came there to testify, also Jim Delaney Lowe, old Calvin Banks, and a crowd of others. Peering around for a place to spit his chaw, Deputy R. T. Radford related the heroic saga of how he had stumbled over the defendant’s revolver in the woods. Next, Dr. Nance described with due pomposity how Watson’s shotgun, “heavily” loaded with buckshot and “all primed for mayhem,” was found a short distance away from that “hard-faced Negro.” Here Nance pointed a bony finger at Defendant Reese,
had poked up the primordial fires smoldering in Hannah, for she hadn’t been in residence a week when she took that hog thief to her bed and clung to him for dear life ever after. Since she was ten times stronger, Green explained, he knew it was useless to attempt a struggle. “Thought you always wanted to grow up to be a virgin, Green,” I said. “Why, hell, no!” Green retorted with a dirty grin. “It’s just I was savin it for Betsey!” Betsey was that brindle sow I’d trained up to do tricks for the
seemed even louder than the engine, crossing the water to the foreshore, breaking that mass into clusters, moving shapes. At the store, hurried figures crossed the yellow lamplight in the doorway. I stifled a frantic yell—Don’t shoot!—scared that any sudden sound might break the spell and turn this hydra-headed thing into a lynch mob. The Brave was within shotgun range, coasting toward shore. Casually I turned my back and, back still turned, picked up my shotgun and set it gently on the cabin
his eleven children. However, “his favorite was always his first daughter, Sophia,” declared Aunt Sophia. Among his seven sons, besides Tillman and Artemas and Elijah Junior, was another Michael, whose meddling widow, Great-Aunt Tabitha, was held responsible by both my parents for their unhappy marriage. “I do declay-uh, I’ve been bred up on ouah family traditions,” Aunt Sophia liked to say, with the shuffle and shift of bombazine and feathers that signaled the onset of another anecdote which