Rowdy and deep-dyed "southern," a comic first novel of politics, booze, and a ne'er-do-well's coming of age
In this rollicking first novel there's dope in the bottomlands and coal in the hills--but not enough of either to keep anybody happy.
Toomey Spooner hasn't achieved much in his thirty-nine years, and now he seems to recognize a final chance to turn his useless life around. He ascertains a need, some signal accomplishment, something his survivors can chisel into a tombstone. So he resolves not to leave the world as he entered it (fat and bald and blank) but as mayor of Oceana, Kentucky.
After a long ghost-haunted night, a fueling with whisky, and vivid intimations of his own mortality, he realizes that he has reached that pivotal crossroads where everything in his life is at stake. With his pitiful patrimony as his political war chest, this feckless scion of a long line of Oceanans embarks on his race.
But politics becomes much trickier and messier than Toomey ever figured. His girlfriend Wilhelmina Rains is sure he has lost his mind. Early on, his cousin Jerry Toller joins in puffing Toomey's campaign but then masterminds a renegade program of his own. Panthrex, a gargantuan multinational corporation that schemes to locate a toxin-spewing medical waste incinerator in Oceana, puts its bulk and bankroll behind Toomey's lifelong opponent, the villainous Dickey Fitzgerald. These and other hateful forces strive to crush him.
This comic, picaresque tale re-counts Toomey's very peculiar and painful progress toward adulthood.
In her praise of Too Close to Call Moira Crone maintains "there isn't a page without a lovely, sharp, and amusing observation." Robert Olen Butler adds that Kelsay "is one of the most original and dynamic narrative voices that I've ever read."
Michael Kelsay teaches writing at Lexington Community College in Lexington, Kentucky. His work has been published in Virginia Quarterly Review, Writer's Digest, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Miami Herald, and the Charlotte Observer.