One of the strange things about reading this book is that you become increasingly both enamored with the cultural moment and confused as to what it meant. It was a raucous lapse in traditional Southern conservatism, but also largely a branding strategy. This is partly why “progressive country” always sounded like an oxymoron, but then, if anything, the paradox is what gave it its power.
People get weird about school. When you’re a kid, you go where you’re told. But when you’re a parent, you care, because your choice will say a lot about you, and what god you love, and how comfortable you are with your children having friends who have witnessed a murder or know what a bail bondsman is.
Instantly, here was race, implied violence, and the abject debunking of the two, all unspooled in a startlingly familiar dialect that was somehow hardly written in dialect. How absurd that this was the first scene of the novel. It was one of the most hilariously accurate depictions of the contemporary South I’d ever encountered, and from the pages of an airport crime novel written by an old white man from Detroit.