Thursday, March 31, 2011

Daniel Woodrell, Writer

As I said once, if a website doesn't get updated for more than a month, nobody makes too much of it, but when a weblog doesn't get updated in a month, people begin to wonder whether it's been abandoned or that the blogger is dead! Not an ideal medium for deadline-resistant procrastinators such as myself. So I will now log an off-topic post, to prove I am still alive and I still have this blog in mind, and also to take the opportunity to remark on another writer I'm a fan of, Daniel Woodrell.

Not (yet) as well-known as Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell has to date published eight novels since his first in 1986:
Under the Bright Lights (1986)
Woe to Live On (1987)
Muscle for the Wing (1988)
The Ones You Do (1992)
Give Us a Kiss: A Country Noir (1996)
Tomato Red (1998)
The Death of Sweet Mister (2001)
Winter's Bone (2006)
The first five novels are currently out-of-print. Fortunately, with the critical and popular success of the movie of Winter's Bone last year, three of the first four novels will be republished in a few weeks as a set titled "The Bayou Trilogy", which includes Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do, all set in Cajun/bayou country Louisiana (the most recent four novels are set in Ozark country Missouri, Woodrell's native state). Woodrell's "rediscovery" could be comparable to McCarthy's "rediscovery" in 1992, when, after All the Pretty Horses became a critical hit and bestseller, McCarthy's out-of-print early novels got republished.

Winter's Bone is not the first Woodrell novel to be turned into a motion picture. In 1999, Ang Lee turned Woe to Live On into the movie Ride With the Devil. The novel has a historical setting of the American Civil War, in the Missouri-Kansas border area, where there was extreme violence between the pro-Confederate Bushwackers and the pro-Union Jayhawkers. William Clarke Quantrill, who led the Bushwackers, is a character in the novel and movie. The movie was a box office dud, though there might have been some critical praise at the time, and the movie has continued to fail to develop a following on DVD. Even the issuance of a Criterion director's cut remastered edition of the movie late last year did little to raise the movie's profile, but I am not surprised. Ride With the Devil is a typical big-budget star-studded Hollywood trash, whereas Winter's Bone, a low-budget independent film with low-profile names in writing, directing, and acting, truly brings out the Greek tragedy of the story to great effect, and ranks among the best American movies of recent years.

Winter's Bone the movie should be recognized: Debra Granik for directing; Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini for adapting the screenplay; for acting, Jennifer Lawrence (Ree) and Dale Dickey (Merab) and John Hawkes (Teardrop); Dickon Hinchliffe for original music, especially for the instrumental piece "Hardscrabble Elegy"; Marideth Sisco for singing many of the songs, some traditional and others written specifically for the movie. This movie has a soundtrack that rivals that of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? from a decade earlier. And movies made from McCarthy novels should be this great!

Besides "The Bayou Trilogy", to be released on April 28, Woodrell also plans a collection of short stories The Outlaw Album to be released on October 5. I don't know what the contents are specifically, and it might or might not include some short stories that are available variously on the internet, including these three:

A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir (2007), edited by Megan Abbott, is a collection of short stories by different authors, including one by Woodrell (282-287), which is available in its entirety in this anthology excerpt:
"Uncle" by Daniel Woodrell [pdf]

From the April 2009 issue of Esquire:
"Night Stand" by Daniel Woodrell [html]

From the December 2010 issue of Esquire:
"Twin Forks" by Daniel Woodrell [pdf]

Esquire seems to have a fondness for Woodrell! Besides the two short stories in Esquire, in the September 2007 issue, on the "Esquire 100" list, Woodrell is ranked number 63:
Daniel Woodrell: The Voice of the Ozarks
And accompanying the short story in the December 2010 issue of Esquire is this profile:
Daniel Woodrell: Writer: The most overlooked great novelist in America is about to enter your life

February 27, 2011 Woodrell interview in The Wall Street Journal:
Author Daniel Woodrell on 'Winter's Bone,' Attending the Oscars and His Next Book
March 2, 2011 follow-up Woodrell interview in The Wall Street Journal:
'Winter's Bone' Author Daniel Woodrell on Mixing the 'Verve and Vivacity' of Pulp with Family Stories

Yes, Daniel Woodrell is a writer to watch, if you have not already have his name on your watchlist!


  1. Whang dang doodle, mayne.

  2. Yeah, mayne, the wolf is howlin' and the dead are grateful!

    We gonna romp and tromp till midnight
    We gonna fuss and fight till daylight
    We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long

  3. I found Winter's Bone in a charity shop last winter - although have always been a great reader, no author had ever had such a strong affect on me. Since then I have tracked down and read all his books - Woe to Live on is the last one I found and I've just started it. He is a blazing star of a writer, his worlds are hyper real and his characters burn tiger-bright. The problem is - how to follow him?

  4. Where are you? I want MORE!!! I promise to visit more regularly!!!

    Happy New Year!!!!