Ritter, Josh. The Great Glorious Goddamned of it All. Toronto: Hanover Square Press, 2021.
Reason read: Josh Ritter is a master of words. It does not matter if he is writing a song or a novel, his imagery and storytelling is bar none.
If you know Josh Ritter’s music, then you know his writing style through and through. His novels are no different. Filled with exquisite detail, they capture the imagination with fantastic characters and plot. Great Glorious tells the tale of a lumberjacking family from the perspective of ninety-plus year old Weldon Applegate on his deathbed. Lumberjacking as a profession, I must admit, is something I don’t really think about that much (despite spending four years at a boarding school in the hardwood-dense White Mountains. Let me digress: I can remember huge timber trucks overloaded with enormous fresh-cut trees barreling down the winding narrow backroads of Maine. Narrowly missing by what seemed like only inches, these behemoths would rock my father’s teeny Dodge Diplomat as they screamed by. My father’s lips would be pressed into a grim line as his hands, white knuckled, gripped ten and two on the wheel. I know I heard a swear or two…). Speaking of swearing, Josh Ritter is such a quiet, soft spoken guy that the profanity was a bit of a surprise.
But, back to the plot of The Great Glorious Goddamn Of It All. Elderly Weldon Applegate looks back on his long life. From his hospital bed he remembers his family’s land called the Lost Lot, a stretch of mountainside nearly impossible to log. Weldon’s family has owned this land deemed too dangerous to describe for generations. It’s where good men go to die for want of timber; timber so profitable, the monstrous Linden Laughlin wants it for himself despite the well known bad omens. Through magic and humor, Weldon recounts his battle (at thirteen years of age!) with Linden. Word of caution: there is unexpected violence.
I am always fascinated by character names and Josh’s are exceptionally strange: Linden Laughlin, Unto Sisson, Oral Avery, Billy Lowground, Shorty Wade, Joe Moufreau (sounds like Joe Motherfukcer), Weldon and Tom Applegate, and Serwalter Scott (sounds like Sir Walter). There are more to enjoy!
Lines I loved, “The lights held the promise of laughter and forgetting” (p 140).
Author fact: This is Ritter’s second novel.
Book trivia: the audio version of The Great Glorious Goddamn Of It All includes new music from Josh.
Playlist: “Beautiful Dreamer,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Some Somewhere,” and “Stars for a Crown.”