Reading by author Charles McNair
from Pickett's Charge
Outside Montgomery, Alabama – Summer 1964.
To understand the fiction of Charles McNair, born in 1954 in Dothan, Ala., it’s helpful also to understand the fiction of one Franz Kafka, born seven decades earlier and 5,000 miles away in Prague.
McNair and Kafka are up to similar tricks. Consider the first sentence of Kafka’s groundbreaking short story, “The Metamorphosis.”
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
“If you read one line after that, the hook is in your mouth, and you will not spit it out,” McNair says. “He’s set the rules for you. Either you believe it — that this is the passkey to the rest of the story — or you walk away from it.”
The rule McNair sets in “Pickett’s Charge” — his two-decades-in-the-making novel scheduled for release on Sept. 20 — is that you have to believe in the story of one Threadgill Pickett, the last living veteran of the Confederate Army, who at age 114 sets out, on foot, in 1964, to walk from Mobile, Ala., to Bangor, Me.
Is it believable? A Confederate veteran, who lost his twin brother a century earlier in the Civil War, walking 1,600 miles, along the way bearing witness to some of the most harrowing events of the American civil rights movement?
Whether you let that hook set in your jaw is your choice. But we will pity you if you don’t. The sneak preview we offer you drops you into Chapter 19 of the story, set outside of Montgomery, Ala., about 200 miles or so into Threadgill’s journey, at the moment when he begins to see a path to redemption from a century of bitterness. Unless you believe the entire chapter is a dream ...
McNair would say that choice belongs to you, the reader. As for those of us at The Bitter Southerner, we encourage you strongly to let the hook set, because few writers in the 21st century have dealt as bravely — or as imaginatively — with the duality of the Southern thing as McNair does in “Pickett’s Charge.”
You’ll be able to read Chapter 19 (after the first 18, of course) when you buy the book, as you should. (You can order a signed copy below.)
But The Bitter Southerner wanted to bring you this chapter in a way available nowhere else, so we asked McNair if he would read it to us. We expect the genius of his writing — presented in McNair’s own gentle, south Alabama accent — will set the hook even harder.