09 Feb 2006
There are some books too good to describe. Yes there is, believe one who has seen a lotta books pass under his nose and before his eyes these many years.
Most times I’m better behaved than this. I’ll give you the skinny about the book, describe its parts, maybe read you a few lines, and try to come up with a snapper of an ending so you’d come back for more.
Not this time. “Greek Boy” defeated me.
It caught me unawares when it landed on my desk. First thing was that it’s huge and heavy. It’s a big book, in all three dimensions. Taller and wider than a sheet of paper and 590 pages thick.
Now, a memoir 590 pages thick that feels like the Rock Hill phone book does not signal an enlivening reading experience.
A glance at the spine showed that it was published by Snug Press. Never heard of it. Probably self-published then. The only thing worse than a 590-page memoir the size of the Rock Hill phone book is a self-published 590-page memoir, etc., etc.
I’ve said this before, and it’s gotten me in trouble each time, but that doesn’t make the truth any less true. In a world full of uncertainties, in which nothing is 100% true, this one fact is: Self-published books are crap. They are a testament to the author’s ego overcoming the author’s judgment, and while the author pays for its publication, it’s family, friends and occasionally the book reviewers who pay everything else.
Still, “Greek Boy” had something going for it. It was shrink-wrapped, which indicates a level of care rarely seen in publishing. The cover design looked pretty cool, too.
As a rule, artwork does not indicate how good a book is. Never judge a book, yada yada yada yada. Except. Most self-published authors either can’t afford, don’t care or didn’t realize that the quality of the cover does matter. If it doesn’t look at least as good as anything put out by the big guys, why should anyone care? There’s too, too many books out there to be concerned about one ugly duckling.
“Greek Boy” looked cool. A hand-tinted picture of a Myrtle Beach cafe called the Kozy Korner Grill, circa 1950, overlaid with a black and white cutout picture of, what else, a Greek boy, hands on hips and insolent glare at the camera. Presumably the author, Dino Thompson.
And on the back, in color, a full-length shot of Dino the adult, in sort of the same pose. All in all, well laid-out, attractive use of color, nothing at all (except for the unusual size of the book and the “Snug Press” logo) to indicate this is self-published.
But on the back cover, through the shrink-lap, a was hidden a little landmine of a booby trap, and the reason why you’re reading about “Greek Boy” instead of, say, “The Brethern” or “Seven Effective Habits of Highly Effective Messiahs.”
I don’t remember which of the excerpts it was. Probably about Miss Magnolia:
“Lemme see how to say it without reddin up yo ears . . . Miss Magnolia was put on this earth to pleasure men. She’s a one in a million. Smart, smells good, handsome to look at. Jes seein a woman what looks like Miss Magnolia is worth more’n money to most men. Every square inch of the woman is nearbout perfectious.”
Or maybe it was the part about his father:
“My ole man was just my ole man . . . Never think your ole man is a for-real person. Never think your ole man’s got feelings, dreams, needs. He’s just the ole guy you live with, tells you what to do, buys you stuff, reels you back in when you veer off on a tangent. He’s a lotta things but he aint’a for-real person. Leastways that’s what I useta think before that day on the fishin pier.”
Then there’s Dino’s description of 1961:
“Yea . . . 1960 was a scrapbook kinda year. But 1961 . . . now that entire year hardly had a fly on it. Kodak moments trippin all over themselves. Yea . . . 1961 was jam up and jelly tight.”
Finally, there’s a quote from his mother, which if it isn’t true, should be:
“Damndest thing I ever read. . . . “
See, this chronicle of Dino’s life, starting when his family drove through Myrtle Beach in September of 1946, stopped for lunch and ended up buying the Kozy Korner, is jammed with incidents, characters and full-blooded jaw-stretchers, told in Dino’s signature style that’s half slanguage, half Southern shoot-the-breeze talk. I don’t even know if it’s all true. In fact, I’m sure a lot of it isn’t. But when it’s told this engaging, when it makes me want to pick up the book still and thumb through it and settle down for a long stretch, who cares?
Author’s note: Dino Thompson’s book is not available through Amazon, but from the author’s website.