"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt made for a wonderful read. The interesting twists and turns embedded within almost every chapter made me want to keep turning the pages. Although Midnight reads like a novel, it is actually based on historically accurate details relating to Savannah, Georgia, and it's society. This creates for an interesting genre, probably falling into the realm of historical nonfiction.

The entire book is based primarily on the murder of a young man in Savannah, and his supposed killer, another gentleman prominent in Savannahian society. However, leading up to the actual murder, the author introduces a series of other Savannah natives, all of them quite interesting characters. From drag queens to lawyers, businessman to hustlers, I was able to meet individuals on both ends of the spectrum.

The setting centered the book in the heart of the South, Savannah, Georgia, during the 1980's. Being born and raised in the Midwest, I found the sharp contrast of lifestyles enthralling. The characters, well, WOW! As I said before, there was such a dynamic scale of personas that it created for a complete surprise every chapter when he would introduce somebody new.

My favorite by leaps and bounds, however, had to be Chablis. The initial description I received created a vivid picture in my mind: "She was wearing a loose white cotton blouse, jeans, and white tennis sneakers. Her hair was short, and her skin was a smooth mild chocolate. Her eyes were large and expressive..." Then, a few pages later, I got another entirely different scene from the author, putting almost a disturbing picture in my mind. "Chablis suddenly burst into view, looking like raging fire in a skimpy sequined dress with jagged red, yellow, and orange flamelike fringes hanging from it. She wore huge hoop earrings and a wig of long black curls. The audience cheered as she strutted down the runway, working every nuance of the rhythm, shaking her behind like a pom-pom, whipping it from side to side."

As you can see from looking at the characterization in the book, Berendt also uses great description. He uses the same intense description all throughout the book, describing everything from houses to parks to squares to people. The imagery was simply amazing.

I don't believe that there was any strong symbolism or theme within this piece. The author just stuck right to the main plot of describing typical Savannah life, taking me on a journey, letting me witness people and events.

By the end of the book I almost wanted to adopt a southern drawl and sip a mint julep!