Friday, February 3, 2012

Missouri Noir

Despite the fact that he is from my home state of Missouri and has published eight novels, I was not aware of Daniel Woodrell until his novel Winter’s Bone was adapted into a movie in 2010. The movie blew me away, and I read the book soon after. It is one of the rare cases where I think both the movie and the book are equally wonderful. Most of his work is set in the Missouri Ozarks, where he was born and where he still lives. He coined the term “country noir” to describe his work, and I think this describes it perfectly. His characters all inhabit a world set apart from the mainstream culture and often apart from the mainstream economy. His newest book is The Outlaw Album, a collection of twelve short stories that continue his exploration of people living on the fringes of society. Even though they live in a world where poverty, desperation, and violence are common, the characters are so well-realized that they draw you in despite their often extreme circumstances. The characters in The Outlaw Album range from a man who has murdered his neighbor to a grieving father of a missing daughter who can't shake his suspicion that one of his fellow townspeople must be responsible for her disappearance. These stories paint a vivid picture of rural Missouri and of people facing the challenges of high poverty rates and limited opportunity. Despite the dark themes, the vulnerability of the characters and Woodrell's unique poetic style make these stories particularly moving and haunting.

The Outlaw Album, several of Woodrell's novels, and the dvd version of Winter's Bone can all be found here at The Urbana Free Library!

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