Cult Classics April 25, 2011Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, literary fiction.
Some classics are like precocious children not appreciated within the culture of their birth. Other classics are instantaneous sensations lauded by critics, applauded by masses and forever assigned by academics. And then there are the others. Novels seared by the hot tines of satire, pop commentary, or political machination. Novels that peel down the skin of humanity and fry it on the griddle of public opinion. Novels that wag warning fingers or stick metaphorical tongues out at the very readers who turn pages in literary arousal. These latter novels become the cult classics that we’ll discuss this week in #litchat.
Guest host on Friday, April 29 is Timothy Schaffert, author of The Coffins of Little Hope (Unbridled Books). Stroked with ambitious swaths of color in character, setting and story, The Coffins of Little Hope pokes fun at everything our jaded society finds most compelling, beginning with the disappearance of a child; the over-analytical, microscopic scrutiny into the lives of authors and the books they produce; the fascination with dysfunction of the gritty kind; and the all-consuming desire to know the ending. Schaffert accomplishes all of this within a story told from the perspective of a small-town octogenarian, who shapes the story from her experience as the local paper’s obituary writer. With characters endearing in the faults that shape their mystery and set within a contemporary calendar, the story contrasts the honorable rural america of a bygone era with the media-frenzied public fueled by pop culture and the extreme. Add to this slim volume a book within a book, authors within the author, and you have a cult classic in the making with The Coffins of Little Hope. (You can read the insightful NY Times review, or visit the meta-fictional “Rothgutt’s Asylum for Misguided Girls,” where the “Miranda and Desiree” books within the book are set.)
Timothy Schaffert grew up on a farm in Nebraska and currently lives in Omaha. His short fiction has been published in several literary journals and he’s won numerous awards, including the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award and the Nebraska Book Award. He is the author of four critically-acclaimed novels: The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters, The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God, Devils in the Sugar Shop, and most recently The Coffins of Little Hope.
Follow Timothy on Twitter: @timschaffert.