Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
   John Berendt is a New York-based columnist for Esquire magazine. He first took a trip to Savannah, Georgia, on a whim. Stories he had heard gave him strange stereotypes of the quaint, isolated city. Savannah meant "rum-drinking pirates, strong-willed women, courtly manners, eccentric behavior, gentle words, and lovely music." These notions would soon be erased. His encounters with Savannah natives show him his ideas were wrong, but the city's inhabitants are definitely strange. He falls in love with Savannah and ends up spending more time there than in New York.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a "nonfiction novel." You read correctly. The book is written about Berendt's true experiences in Savannah, but he admits that some of the dialogue is less than bona fide. The book is a compilation of descriptions of various people he met. The isolation of Savannah means eccentricities are never allowed to seep out. Instead, they became concentrated. The first half of the book vividly captures the peculiar spirit of the city. Joe Odom jumps from house to house without paying rent, throwing non-stop parties and giving "historic" tours. Luther Driggers aspires to invent glow-in-the-dark goldfish to entertain alcoholic minds, yet he is feared because he supposedly holds a poison 500 times more deadly than arsenic. The Lady Chablis is an overbearing drag queen who is never without a sly remark. Jim Williams is the debonair antique dealer who "lived like an aristocrat without being one."

The second half of the book has a more defined plot line. Jim Williams is accused of murdering Danny Hansford. Danny is the stereotypical trouble-maker, longing for love and attention, but with too harsh a facade to let anyone know it. Williams claims he shot Hansford in self-defense, but the evidence is heavily against him. Williams pumps money out of his bank account into the pockets of his lawyers. But he doesn't only rely on money. He also believes concentrating on winning the trial will make him win it.

There is something liberating, I suppose, about reading a book which lacks moral purpose. This book holds inventive dialogue, goose-bump-inducing character sketches, and that coveted ability to pull the reader in and make him lament that the book is not longer. The book does something which merely visiting the city could not do; it makes it alive. The city enraptures the reader. To call it quaint is to fall short. To call it bedazzling is to overcompensate. It is simply alive.

But I, of course, am that annoying type who must extract a moral - preferably something deep-seated which I can spit out incessantly for a few weeks until I acquire a new one. What I've realized is that maybe Savannah's not the only place where being odd is the norm. Look around. I have a cousin who makes more long-distance phone calls than the Secretary of State. A friend of mine cries when our teacher doesn't assign us seats because it too closely resembles anarchy. See what I mean? How easy it would be to say that Savannah alone should be grateful for its peculiar people. Maybe, just maybe (don't all deep-seated sentences start with that?) we, too, need to be grateful because Savannah's streets might just have an uncanny resemblance to ours. .


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback