Who's there? by Sandra Jones Cropsey (book review)

Sandra Jones Cropsey, Who's There ? (Denver, CO: Outskirts Press, 2008)
ISBN: 978-1-4327-0197-0 $16.95 221 pp

Although not intended as such, the comment made by Flannery O'Connor and quoted on the rear jacket of the book under review here might make it appear that Southerners have a corner on writing about the grotesque. That is certainly not the case because what could be more grotesque than Herman Melville's Captain Ahab or the many grotesque characters in the novels of Stephen King? However, there is a distinctively Southern style of writing about the grotesque. A good example of this is found in Sandra Jones Cropsey's Who's There? which can be said to actually "celebrate" the grotesque. There have been many novels about wacky people in rural Southern towns, but this one really takes the cake!! The things that are done and said by Cropsey's characters are so bizarre that it is nothing short of amazing that she is able to make them believable.

Poet Kori Moore has applauded Cropsey's "imaginative use of the English language" which enabled her to portray quirky characters that are also "completely real and altogether enjoyable and delightful". Her fellow Georgia author Bill Copeland compares her book to Olive Ann Burns's Cold Sassy Tree. He says that Cropsey "writes with style and humor, delicately weaving the intricacies of the tale into a beautifully written story". For this reason it is not surprising that Who's There? was a finalist last year in two different contests: The Book Of The Year Award of Foreward Magazine and the Georgia Author Of The Year Award (presented by the GA Writers Association); and is an entrant in the
Colorado Independent Publisher's Association's EVVY Awards contest.

An all-important element in the "Southern style" of writing about the grotesque is the humor which suffuses virtually all the dialogue and action and description in the story. Who's There? is as much a comedy as it is a novel about the grotesque. In fact the grotesque and the humorous are so powerful in this story, beginning with the very first sentence, that they detract our attention from the fact that it is also a mystery. It is not until the very end of the story that the focus is upon the mystery and its solution and the resulting redemption. The great power of the humor and the grotesque in this book can also smother the important, deeper meaning of the story as one of waiting and looking for answers. In fact, Cropsey herself has said that the real point of the story is this spiritual quest which is finally satisfied in the denouement.

Cropsey, who has a baccalaureate degree in theatre, originally wrote Who's There? as a play, and there is at this time at least one theatrical organization that has expressed interest in performing it. There is a burgeoning arts scene in the metropolitan Atlanta area, including the Southside counties (where Cropsey lives), so it is quite possible that we might see its debut performance at a venue somewhere around here. If that does happen, be sure to go and see it. In the meantime, get a copy of Cropsey's book and enjoy her humorous Southern style celebration of the grotesque!

Available via bookstores and libraries.

Forrest Schultz is the leader of the Coweta Writers Group, which is growing by leaps and bounds, and the writer of the Coweta Arts Tidbits news releases, which cover the burgeoning Coweta arts scene.

An archive of Forrest's articles is located here.

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