Thursday, November 04, 2010


By Joe Lansdale

Say what you like about Joe Lansdale’s stories, call them outrageous, offensive, in poor taste, grotesque, and divisive, just never, ever call them dull.

High Cotton is a collection of Lansdale’s early short fiction. In formal terms this anthology is all over the map, there are crime stories, fantasies, science fiction, and yarns that just defy description. Lansdale country is often grotesque but with an exuberant sense of humor that can take you straight from a cringe to a belly laugh. Above all this is Lansdale’s exploration of his country, East Texas, and the author gets right to it’s festering underbelly, slashes it open and passes out pieces from the wound for your examination. To be sure Lansdale’s rednecks are the most disgusting set of sister-lovin’, nigra-hatin’, moonshine-drinkin’, toothless, no-brain, no-count trash you will ever find in print. They make the rednecks in Deliverance look like Ned Flanders, but take it all as a joke. Lansdale wouldn’t parody East Texans so fiercely if East Texas weren’t so obviously deeply a part of his soul.

The set leads off with "The Pit", a raucously funny and terrifying tale of gladiatorial combat in a lost city of rednecks in the mysterious Big Thicket. The beautifully sentimental "Not Made in Detroit" is a classic tale of a duel with Death. "Steppin’ Out, Summer, ’68" is Lansdale masterpiece of black humor, a miniature redneck epic of misadventure told by a deranged Homer. "Godzilla’s Twelve Step Program" is one of the funniest things I’ve read in years. This is just a sampling of the stories found herein. Lansdale says that high cotton refers to a place where the living is good. The title doesn’t lie.
-Dave Hardy


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