Sometimes you find something that is very, very special.
I know anybody who keeps up with anything has read Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone and probably long before it was adapted for the screen. I'm a bit embarrassed to say I read it for the first time this week, choosing things as I always do in my own strange and serendipitous order. I read The Bayou Trilogy and a couple of Woodrell's other novels and of course they were great.
But this book was perfect.
I get it now, everybody calling him a "writer's writer." To misquote one author, "he writes the things other writers wish they'd written." Yes yes yes. The prose is intimidatingly gorgeous and the editing is masterful. The story is glorious and the characters go round and round inside you for days, telling you things, asking you questions.
This book is MINE, you think when you turn the last page and set it down. This was written for me.
Just hours after finishing Winter's Bone I drove down to the Northern Hotel in Byron Bay, a town on the north coast of New South Wales, to see my friend's beautiful 'country gypsy' band Ruthie-Ma-Toothie (named after an Ozark folktale, incidentally). They were playing the support slot for a singer named Mojo Juju, an artist I already knew from her recordings to possess a unique and crazy gift for singing the blues. At the end of her set Mojo Juju and her new band played I Put A Spell On You.
It was the same kind of magic I felt when reading Winter's Bone.
You are electrified, all thought of craft and comparison falling away, shaking your head in disbelief and saying this is THE ONE. What kind of mad luck let me into this room, to witness this? What did I do right?
Twice in one day.
Something terrible must be coming.