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Madison Smartt Bell ~ Devil’s Dream

Continuing my OCDevotional traversal of Madison Smartt Bell‘s complete works (thanks to Stona Fitch and Concord Free Press for introducing me to his work via their printing of MSB’s ZigZag Wanderer, his latest collection of short stories), I just finished his novelized biography of military auto-didact, the famous Confederate leader, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Devil’s Dream.

With its free-floating, non-sequential journey through his life (reminded me a little of a similarly loosened chronology of Wolfgang Hildesheimer’s fantastic biography of W.A. Mozart), Bell’s always surgically focused and detailed texture, not only of the battle-scenes, but of the subtle commentary of animal figures (used to great effect also in his trilogy of the Haitian Revolution), the inherent magic of human interconnection (ably abetted by occasional narration by a seer from Haiti who joins Forrest’s regiment/retinue), and the fullness of the complications of allegiances and honour make this an essential work of historical fiction.

devil's dreammad bellforrest

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