Friday, June 20, 2008

Standing in the Rainbow - Fannie Flagg

standing in the rainbow
fannie flagg
c. 2003
544 pages

completed 6/18/2008

*may contain spoilers*

As a disclaimer before I actually review this book I want to point out that it was read primarily for the Southern Reading Challenge (see sidebar), however, during the reading of this book I learned that according to the author this book is NOT set in the South. I didn't realize Missouri wasn't considered the South. I have always considered it part of the South. Not the Deep South, like Alabama and Georgia and South Carolina, but the South none the less.

I have done some research and apparently it is one of the border states, like West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, something to do with them being part of Southern region of the US according to the Census Bureau but they didn't secede from the Union during the Civil War. So sometimes Missouri is part of the South and sometimes it's part of the Midwest. I guess they get to pick and choose. Being as I was born in West Virginia and grew up in Delaware I feel I also get to pick and choose and since my roots are in South Georgia and North Carolina, I like to think of myself as a bit of a Southerner. And for the purpose of this challenge, Missouri gets to be Southern, too.

I'm not going to lie, I was a little wary going into this book seeing as I wasn't totally thrilled with the other Fannie Flagg novel I tried, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (despite my total love of the film), but it turns out I was pleasantly surprised. One of my main issues with Fried Green Tomatoes was it's lack of structure, that each chapter jumped from story line to story line and jumped back in forth in time. The book similarly jumped between characters and story lines, but seemed to follow a much more stable flow of time. Time was always moving in basically one direction.

I thought this book was mostly very sweet. Most of the characters were completely lovable. There was no big plot, just little life stories from people in a small town. I think I loved reading about Mackey and Norma and their Aunt Elner the best. The Oatmans were a little too much at times, but I think that was part of their charm. The Smith Family was charming and entertaining, especially the misadventures Bobby would get himself into as a child.

I think probably the most involved storyline was that of Hamm Sparks and Betty Raye and the political races. This was a little unfortunate since this was the storyline I liked the least. I just couldn't like Hamm Sparks. I thought there was just nothing redeemable about him. I think the author tried to portray him as someone honest and unbiased in politics, but I think she fell short of that goal. The author tried to portray him as honest in his politics, but he lost all credibility to the reader for continually not keeping his word to his wife and eventually taking a mistress. And he was supposedly unbiased towards this "little man" (I know he said there's no such thing as the "little man"), but his politics continually painted those who were well off as nothing but evil and corrupt which is a bias in itself. And I think his character really unraveled at his speech about the Vietnam War at (I think) UC Berkley, though I actually think (due to the reaction of the people in the story) that the author intended for his speech to make him look better. To me, it made him seem uneducated and thoughtless.

Even when Hamm Sparks first made his appearance, I thought he was a little too slick. His courtship of Betty Raye was not romantic, it was borderline harassment. Yes, at the end of the courtship the author said Batty Raye was in love, but I almost think she wasn't. That she said yes partly out of exhaustion or not knowing what else to say. Also, I thought from that first Valentine's Day during her senior year in high school that Betty Raye should someday marry Jimmy. I like to think that they did in the end, when he went to live with her in her little red brick house.

One other part of the book that bothered me was the character of Cecil Figgs. I didn't like his depiction. To be honest, I was at times a little offended. I...THINK he was supposed to be a gay character, but this was never expressly said. If I remember correctly, I think when we went to New Orleans it was mentioned that he wanted to stay because of the pretty boys. But I didn't like that he was on more than one occasion referred to as a fairy. And he was portrayed as annoying, not really a man, obsessed with decorations and planning events. And then he ended his life by pretending to be dead so he could recreate himself as Mrs. Boom Boom and headline a nightclub. As if that great joy was the best thing a gay man could aspire to. I don't know. I wanted to like his character, but he got more and more ridiculous as time went on. And maybe I'm reading to much into his character.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed that it was basically a series of anecdotes, almost as if you were reading the "best of the neighbor Dorothy show."



____Maggie said...

Oh, please consider this a southern setting and author. Mark Twain is the Father of Southern Literature and we all know he was a Missourian! I'm excepting the States in the Historic Southern US map in wiki. In my view I cannot accept Oklahoma. :)

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Veronica said...

Thanks for the encouragement. :)