Then something happens.
With eyes closed and smiles of sausage and mushroom dreams, you remember why you are so full. You didn’t have a slice. There was a whole pizza pie here.
Bent Dead in Beloit is the whole pizza pie. It’s flat out entertaining. Infused with an ironic affection for the people and the place of the story. You read this book and you find yourself entertained by a character eating tater tots. In this book, there is a cat who is more interesting than most humans in most other books. In this book, there are plot twists you won’t see coming. You read this book and you appreciate the fact than you are in the hands of a master craftsman.
But what makes the book go from slice to full pizza pie is something more. The author, a distinguished professor of English, has spent a lifetime surrounded by literary giants. He’s guided countless young minds to answer questions like “What was Wallace Stevens talking about?’ Or exclamations like “Oh, that’s what Hemingway meant!”
I was one of those young minds. Joined in community with other lovers of literature. Wanting to be a writer. I really didn’t know what that meant. But I knew I wanted it.
I remember, not long after leaving Beloit College, sitting at the grave of Thomas Wolfe in Asheville North Carolina and thinking, “with writers this magnificent, why bother? Hasn’t everything worth saying already been said? Who am I to presume I can write?”
Those questions came back to me reading this book.
Because running just under the surface of this quiet, fun detective story were some very true messages on friendship, on deception, fantasy and what it means to be part of a community.
There is no instruction book to life. But if you’re a writer or a reader, you are a member of a larger community.
And if what you write is true, not factual, but true, if someone reads it and listens to your story; then I have my answer to the questions posed at Wolfe’s grave. We in community keep telling and listening to stories because that’s who we are. That’s our community. At our best, we can all tell and listen to stories that matter.
Professor McBride has spent a lifetime in our community.
In Bent Dead in Beloit, it shows.