A State of Laughter
Synopsis:Don Noble follows up on his immensely popular Climbing Mount Cheaha to produce another anthology of Alabama fiction-comic, this time. At press, the collection includes the following writers: Caroline Haines, Jack Pendarvis, William Cobb, Brad Watson, Barry Hannah, Wendy Reed, Lee Smith, Michael Knight, Pat Meyer, Bart Barton, Madison Jones, Dan Wallace, Suzanne Hudson, Joe Formicella, Joe Taylor, Eugene Walter, Truman Capote, and Michelle Richmond.
ISBN: 978-1-60489-004-4 Library Binding $26 Sale $11
ISBN: 978-1-60489-005-1 Trade Paper $15.95 Sale $6
Don Noble has been the host of the Emmy-nominated Alabama Public Television literary interview show Bookmark since 1988. Since 2002 his weekly reviews of fiction and nonfiction, mainly Southern, have been broadcast on Alabama Public Radio. His two most recent edited books are Climbing Mt. Cheaha: Emerging Alabama Writers (2004) and Zelda and Scott/Scott and Zelda: Essays on the Fitzgeralds’ Life, Work and Times (2005). He is also the editor of Hemingway: A Revaluation, The Steinbeck Question: New Essays in Criticism, The Rising South (with Joab L. Thomas), and A Century Hence (by George Tucker). His reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous periodicals over the past forty years, and he has written introductions to several books, most recently a reissue of William Cobb’s Coming of Age at the Y. He serves on the board of directors of the Alabama Humanities Foundation and is an honorary lifetime member of the Alabama Writers’ Forum. After receiving a Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill, Noble joined the English Department at the University of Alabama in 1969 and is now Professor Emeritus of English and Adjunct Professor of Journalism. In 2000, Noble received the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar. With Brent Davis, he received a regional Emmy in 1996 for Excellence in Screenwriting for the documentary I’m in the Truth Business: William Bradford Huie.
from the Book:
On Mobile Bay, the late October afternoons are golden and still, long and summery.
The group of ladies had finished their tea under the pecan trees and had fallen into a cozy silence, watching ants going off through the grass struggling with crumbs of kumquat cake. They would have preferred some music, although no one thought of it or mentioned it. The silence remained oddly unbroken and at last began to weigh on them.
Mrs. Warden had the habit of lowering her voice when she had something to impart which she considered serious and worthy of total attention. She lowered it now, as far as it would go, so the other ladies recalled their shimmering minds and willingly gave her the floor, or rather, the lawn.
She said: “The masculine sense of humor is basically very frivolous, very primitive and, above all, cruel.”
“Oh, men never grow up,” sighed Mrs. Cantwell, rubbing her eyes and sitting up straight.
“I mean . . .” said Mrs. Warden, coming back up to an easier conversational tone, “well, you just take what happened at Bessie de Banfield’s last week. If my husband had behaved like that, to me, after all that happened, I swear I’d’a shot him.”
“What did Tom do?” asked Mrs. Cantwell, mildly.
“What happened, what was all that happened?” asked the old dressmaker, Miss Grenier, who hadn’t been listening. But she pricked up her ears at Mrs. Warden’s last words. Men, she conceded, but husbands were her natural enemies. After all, they were slow to pay her neatly written bills and somehow didn’t seem to notice her, tapeline about her shoulders, mouth full of pins, even in their very own houses.
Mrs. Warden turned to her. “Honey, where have you been? Up on some mousseline cloud?”
Miss Grenier almost blushed. “Well, I’ve been so busy. . . .” She kicked a pecan leaf with a pointed white kid toe. “I sewed three thousand and four hundred bugle beads on Emily Baxter’s train for the Leinkauf School coronation. It’s a full time occupation. My eyes get too tired to read the papers.”
“Oops!” whooped Mrs. Warden. “You’d never read about this in the papers. You mean you didn’t hear about Bessie’s party for the Modern Idea Club?”
“She founded it . . .” murmured Mrs. Cantwell, in a there-there tone.
“I wasn’t there, I had those bugle beads. . . .”
“Lord!” sighed Mrs. Cantwell. “Neither was I. Billy had fever. I wish I’d gone anyway.”
“Tell me. . .” said Miss Grenier.
“Lord yes!” chimed Mrs. Cantwell. “I could hear it over a dozen times. Cissie embroiders a new detail each time she tells it.”
“Do not!” raged Mrs. Warden. “My memory flickers, that’s all.”
“Come on, hon, flicker for us now,” begged Mrs. Cantwell.
Mrs. Warden only laughed. “I tell you what, ladies, let’s stow away these tea things and fetch that bottle of Jim Beam which is sitting right on the icebox beckoning to us. I need a nip if I’m gonna do a number.” They all giggled contentedly and rearranged the scene. Cups were whisked away and in no time ice tinkled in the long glasses.
Then came Mrs. Warden’s voice in the prologue, down again to its lowest note.
“Well, Bessie de Banfield has this big party every year for the Modern Idea Club. . . .”
“Which she founded and which she runs. . . .” said Mrs. Cantwell lazily.
“Indeed. She thought we should put our minds on the problems of the day. Every week a different problem, then at Christmas and every Mardi Gras she gives a fun party, sometimes with a speaker.”
“And always her idea of fun,” put in Mrs. Cantwell softly.
“Her mother was the first Mobile lady to smoke publicly,” explained Miss Grenier.
“She does come up with some clever ideas, that’s the Lord’s truth. It was her idea to make the friendship garden on Hall’s Mill Road, and if she hadn’t taken the initiative they never would have saved those stone squirrels on the roof of the D’Olive house. She led the march of tree lovers to City Hall that time. . . .”
“I wasn’t there . . .” said Miss Grenier.
“Cissie, you are going to get the details in the wrong order again,” admonished Mrs. Cantwell. “Tell about the dog now.”