The Neon BibleBook - 1989
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Written at the age of sixteen, THE NEON BIBLE (Grove Press, $9.00) is an account of life in a small Mississippi town. Set in the forties, it follows the life of David and his family. The town is full of characters, mostly bigoted. A town in which "If somebody got to hate something and he was the right person, everybody had to hate it too . . ." There are a number of town bullies, the preacher leading the way. It's a town that labels poor treatment of others as Christian charity. David and his family are the recipients of such charity in the form of expulsion from the Church because they can't afford the dues. It's a town where one's wealth correlates directly with their prestige in the Kingdom of God, and being from the wrong side of the tracks is a sin.
David is from the wrong side of the tracks.
With THE NEON BIBLE - named for the neon sign mounted atop the church - Toole peels back the exterior of the small Southern town and exposes its ugly substrate. His brilliance, though, isn't in calling out the hypocrisy which invades the whole of town life. The author's brilliance is in successfully capturing the soul of a small town through the eyes of a boy, and leaving us with an indelible record of small town Mississippi life in the 1940's.
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