Mmmm, Underbelly

Novelist emerges from cult status writing about underbelly of Ozarks:

A few hollows and half a universe south of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s last little house, you’ll find Daniel Woodrell.

In this author’s world, Pa cooks meth and Ma sits by the potbelly with unwashed hair, her mind “broke.” The three young ones pretty much fend for themselves.

There’s no sunshiny morning or easy redemption in these Missouri hills. No tender stories of life’s travails eased by kindly neighbors or a loving Savior.

Although Woodrell’s characters share traditions with hardscrabble Ozark folks of lore, his stories probably aren’t going to grab the “Little House on the Prairie” or “Shepherd of the Hills” crowd. Old Matt’s moonshine still isn’t so quaint when it’s a lab for making crank.

Woodrell is Missouri’s most original, yet underappreciated working author. He’s not unknown: Ang Lee made a movie of one of his books, and others have been optioned.

Because the coastal cultural elites prefer that their inferiors in the interior be seemy, irredeemable, redneck trash. Congratulations to Woodrell for his success in perpetuating and profiting from the stereotypes.

In my experience, the people of that area are less crusty and shotgun eccentric and more earthy and friendly. But as the journalist writing the piece indicates, the underbelly sells more than the smiling face, helpful hands, or strong back.

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