Thursday, September 17, 2009

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

by John Berendt
John Berendt writes a good story, though he sometimes falls into the stilted, forced pretense of wit that comes from having been editor of The New Yorker, he also spins a compelling and complex story of lives entwined with the history and mythology of the city of Savannah -- by far the most beautiful, charming and mystique-laden of the myriad characters.
A true crime story by genre, Midnight is certainly not the grimy forray into the criminal mind that tends to clog the field. The criminal is a fine Southern gentleman caught up in his own self-delusions. As with most good 'truths,' the whole story is somewhat unresolved in the end. Which works in it's own way on a deeper level than Berendt ever digs.
A journalist by trade, Berendt is limited by his predeliction for "just the facts" and short-changes the reader on any real insight into perspective. Another short-coming is the book's scatter-shot approach to characters -- some who play a truly pivotal role in terms of the events of the story are breezed over, while other (like cross-dresssing Miss Thing Chablis) take up far more real-estate than their impact deserves.
All in all though, it's a great fast read, especially if you share my adoration of statue-laden cemeteries, old architecture, and misty forests dripping with Spanish moss.

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