Monday, May 30, 2022

24. The Feud by Thomas Berger

Kudos to a cover that shows
an actual scene from the book
I found this nice 1983 first edition hardback in the free shelf outside of Latina.  I knew nothing about it or the author and thought the premise seemed interesting enough that I should give it a try.  It was enjoyable but I am still left a bit puzzled about what the overall mission was for this book.

It takes place I guess in the 50s in two small contiguous towns somewhere in America.  In the opening scene, a father from one town is buying paint stripper in the hardware store of another town.  The son of the proprietor working the counter expresses some attitude and this turns into a full-on conflict (the hardware store burns down that night and the father gets blamed).  The story of the feud is really the vehicle to deliver a somewhat light comedy of manners about dumb hicks.  I couldn't figure out if the author was sympathetic to the characters or poking fun at them and that is what left me feeling puzzled and slightly unsure of my ground while reading it.

There are several sympathetic characters, especially the two sons of the father at the heart of the conflict.  At the same time, almost all the characters, especially the men, are deeply flawed.  Weak of will, emotionally immature, corrupt and dishonest almost all of them.  We get snippets of real affection among them that are somewhat moving and nothing is treated with real heaviness (for instance, one of the sons punches the police chief of one town, who deserved it and his real punishment is that he can't go back to that town).  At the same time, everyone seemed so ignorant and selfish that the portrayal feels a bit like a caricature.

It is well written and the story moved along nicely.  There are some funny bits and the interaction among the teens and their sexual fooling around was well portrayed.  I am still not sure what the point was though.  Here is a much better review that puts The Feud into some context (and summarizes it better), but still doesn't succeed in explaining why we would want to read it.


MP said...

I'm a big fan of Berger. His books are entertaining as hell, and most of them are very funny. What better reasons could you find to read them?

OlmanFeelyus said...

Thanks for the comment and the recommendation. I"ll keep my eye out. He certainly has an excellent reputation among the literary set.