Noblest Roman

Halberstam, David. Noblest Roman. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.

Noblest Roman is Halberstam’s first book. It is also one of the only two works of fiction he wrote. He would go on to prefer writing nonfiction after One Very Hot Day. It makes me wonder about the artistic preference. Why switch from fiction to nonfiction – never to go back again? It’s like the musician who prefers classical music after years of performing heavy metal. Or the watercolor painter who switches to pencil halfway through his career.

Okay. I’m off track.

Noblest Roman takes place in the south (Mississippi) and is a sly commentary on state level elections and the crookedness that comes about in small, rural communities – especially when bootlegging and prostitution are involved. I found the plot to plod and character development to be contradictory. Everything moved too slow for my taste and while one might argue that is the southern way, I found myself sleeping at the wheel too often. It is curious to note that Noblest Roman was inspired by true Mississippi events. Maybe Halberstam wasn’t that far away from nonfiction after all.

Favorite lines: “He changed the subject from Little Bilbo’s woman because listening to the old man talk about her was almost as bad as listening to her in person” (p 10). Had to laugh at that one.
“By all rights he should have been tired and unshaven and rumpled, but he looked fresh and rested. The campaign did not show on him” (p 49).
‘”I’m an old man, Angelo. Before I had a wife. Now I have a wife and a doctor”‘ (p 106).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).

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