I was surprised to see one early reader of Inman Majors' "Wonderdog" compare it to Walker Percy's award-winning 1960 novel "The Moviegoer," going so far as to...
I was surprised to see one early reader of Inman Majors’ “Wonderdog” compare it to Walker Percy’s award-winning 1960 novel “The Moviegoer,” going so far as to note perceived similarities between Percy’s Binx Bolling, with his genteel desperation and his aversion to real life, and Dev Degraw, Majors’ sodden, party-loving, underachieving prankster.
But maybe Binx would have been a lot different if he had been born after 1970, raised on a cultural diet of sitcoms and Crimson Tide fraternity parties, and then spent a few weeks ingesting 80-proof alcohol around the clock.
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In any case, Majors’ latest novel, set in Alabama, shows how little the literature of the New South resembles the world of Faulkner and Welty. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: “Wonderdog” has charms of its own.
Dev Degraw, the hero of this sometimes wildly funny stream-of-consciousness tale, is a just-divorced thirtysomething lawyer with no clients. He is also the son of the governor of Alabama, who is in a bitterly contested re-election campaign, and the former child star of a TV series called “Bayou Dog,” a cut-rate cross between “Lassie” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Dev spends his days sleeping on the couch in his office, romancing — when he isn’t too hung-over — his much older secretary and drinking prodigiously. By night, he pursues his father’s young, calculating, self-absorbed public-relations queen, baits the neighbor’s wiener dogs and cuts a wide swath through the taverns of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.
Scattered amid Dev’s outlandish nocturnal capers are some poignant moments, as when he goes to visit his mother, divorced from the governor for many years and living in a remote, ramshackle trailer. Dev makes conversation gallantly as he thinks about “the unfairness, the bitter unfairness, of that old uncomfortable, nagging, will not will not will not go away, love for the crazy woman who is his mother.”
The novel revolves around the planned reunion of the cast members of “Bayou Dog,” which soon aligns itself on a collision course with the governor’s race, and Dev’s building determination to shake off his ennui and make something of himself.
Majors’ style — like the wicked free-associative style of T.R. Pearson — takes some getting used to. But after the first few chapters, the quirky rhythms of the book set their hooks, and “Wonderdog” weaves its divergent plot that threads into a uniquely entertaining whole.