Sunday, October 21, 2012

Winter's Bone Rises Again

I wasn't so sure I wanted to read Daniel Woodrell's "Winter's Bone" after having seen the Debra Granik movie version of the book at our local art house theater when it screened here a couple years ago. I enjoyed the movie so much that I hunted down her only other feature length film "Down to the Bone" (fellow PBR Bookclubber Nog's lurker and compatriot Chip would surely be attracted to at least the titles in her short filmography!) and thoroughly enjoyed that too. I didn't like the possibility that there was some accolade-worthy reality floating around there that was potentially different from the one I respected so much in the film: it's one thing to see the movie after reading the book, where the director's vision battles the imagery and emotional attachments previously formed in the reader's mental landscape but going in the other direction seemed like it would surely be more jarring still.

Nonetheless, as a copy of the book from the "Read Across Lawrence 2012" effort was thrust into my hand at one point, I finally cracked it a few weeks ago and immediately was struck by the rhythms and the consonance and assonance I associate more with poetry than prose and also by the wonderfully sparse, succinct delivery of visual snapshots and scene.

I picture the environment more viscerally perhaps because I spent much of my childhood and some of my young adult life in the Ozarks camping, fishing, canoeing, discovering hot springs, cold springs, caves that were much like the one described in this story. I've strummed guitars on a sandbar there, went swimming underwater in a deep cold spring that was so cold it turned my lower legs numb in a few minutes of standing in it near the edge later.

I'm also intrigued by some of the implicit aspects of the setting and story, like the plight of people living in generational poverty with no real way to make money (they can't really farm in the hills on the rocky soil) other than illicit means - moonshine in earlier times, meth nowadays (though I'm sure moonshine is still a staple, ha). So forth.

Might be worth commenting on a few differences with the movie - in the movie, there is no snow and characters move between geographics locations very quickly. In the book, I froze my ass off reading about some of those long hikes and incredible waits in the cold, counting chatters of the teeth (I've done that before!) and it was just cold, snow, winter, bitter, snow, and more bitter cold. The movie also inserts a wonderful scene that includes a visit with a recruitment officer at the regional school and it changes a setting for a scene late in the book from a nice house with a sleeping man on the couch to a gathering of middle-aged bluegrass folksters singing and playing what felt like authentic regional old-time standards.

By now you can probably tell that I wrote this review weeks ago and am only just now posting it in the middle of the Telegraph Avenue loop - perhaps this jarring brief look back to the wooded, meth-addled hollows of the wintry Ozarks will make the warm whacky world of Telegraph Hill seem even more inviting and urban.  Thank you - you're welcome!



  1. Not sure who to direct this to, so I'll just leave it here. I just moved here in July (also a librarian, though of the children's variety) and this book club seems right up my alley. Two questions though: 1. "Books and beer at hip bars in LFK" ... Lawrence Fuckin' Kansas? (what else could the "F" be??). 2. When is the next meeting? I assume you've already had your meeting for Chabon's book?


  2. Hi Erin. Thanks for commenting (and I'm only just now discovering Steve's Bone-post: good stuff!).

    You're right about the "F" in LFK! And actually we haven't met yet for Chabon. It's Nov. 5 at TapRoom at 8. Come join us if you can!

    We're much more active on Twitter than the blog these days, so if you tweet just use the #pbrbookclub hashtag or tweet to @pbrbookclub .

    You can email me, Richard, at if you've got any further questions. And we're always looking for more bloggers here too!

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  4. Welcome, Erin, and check us out. Maybe read some past reviews and past book selections and join for the next meeting!


  5. Cool, will do. Thanks guys!