The Spyglass Tree

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The lyrical language of this book quickly draws the reader into Scooter’s life. Heavy on description, dialect, and flashbacks, the book flows from one scene to another, from action to reminiscences to present-day dialogue with a rapidity that should be mind-boggling. But the music of the language draws the reader through the changes and captures the characters in a way that more concise writing could never do.

The book opens with Scooter describing the loneliness of standing in line his first day in college and moves quickly to his experience in the primary grades and the influence of Miss Lexine Metcalf, the third-grade teacher who singled Scooter out as the one student with the potential to make something of himself.

Scooter’s potential was also seen as his duty. This expected achievement can be contrasted with the failure of Miss Creola Calloway, whom everyone in Gasoline Point expected to become a world-class entertainer. Creola never left town, and is a constant reminder to everyone of the lost opportunity.

In time, having discovered the blues and the world of honky-tonks, Scooter meets Hortense Hightower, a singer in a club frequented by the college crowd. Through Hortense, Scooter meets Giles Cunningham, in a caper so far removed from his small-town upbringing or his college life, that it finally completes his education.

The lyrical voice and the stream-of-consciousness recollections draw the reader into...

(The entire section is 540 words.)