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December 09, 2004

Dayne Sherman's Holiday Gift Suggestion

by Ron Hogan

sherman.jpgDayne Sherman is a former high school dropout from Natalbany, Louisiana, who earned his masterís degree from Louisiana State University in 1997. His stories have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies, and his debut novel, Welcome to the Fallen Paradise, came out recently from MacAdam/Cage. He considers himself a Gothic Southern writer, doing his best to live up to the legacy of Faulkner, O'Connor, and others, and his holiday recommendation reflects this view of his avocation.

Ten years ago, a time when I was trying hard to shake my head clear of being a Southern Baptist minister and a fundamentalist, a pastor friend gave me a clipping from his file drawer about the writer and radical Baptist preacher Will D. Campbell, known as Brother Will. I, too, was a writer, and I suppose the pastor friend figured Campbell and I might have a little in common. I read about how the minister lived outside of Nashville, farmed, ministered to Klansmen and civil rights workers alike; how he wrote books and tended to stray hound dogs around his place.

The article might as well have been dynamite. I went to the library and found a copy of Brother to a Dragonfly, Campbell's first memoir. I read it in absolute wonder. The book carried me back to the Great Depression in Amite County, Mississippi, back to WWII, back to the 1950's and 60's and to the civil rights movement. This was the story of how a poor Mississippi redneck tried to minister without paying homage to the idols of the age--any age. The backdrop to the story--Campbellís relationship to his older brother Joe, who burned himself out on prescription drugs--contained writing with more pathos than in any book Iíd ever read, before or since. I wept reading that book. I still weep when I read it. I wanted to write a book just like it if I could. One day. Brother to a Dragonfly is my Christmas recommendation this year for the sinner, the saint, even the happy atheist.


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