%22I need me a will!%22

Darryl Wimberley's narrative is no mere tall tale but a full-fledged novel, with details so vivid, you can smell the wood shavings…
Paul Bunyan by Darryl Wimberley
Review by Susan Waggoner, Foreword Clarion Reviews

Paul Bunyan is reimagined as a man, not a myth, whose personality is giant but whose challenges are all too human.

Myth and plausible reality merge seamlessly in Paul Bunyan, Darryl Wimberly’s fictional account of Bunyan as a mortal man who became the subject of legend.

The tale begins with Bunyan, elderly and illiterate, asking lifelong friend and lumber-camp accountant Johnny Inkslinger to write down the story of his life. The account takes us back to Paul’s mysterious beginnings as a foundling abandoned in the winter woods, his upbringing with loving adoptive parents, and his growth into a redheaded logger “just under seven feet tall” with shoulders “two axe handles wide.” Paul is a giant of a man, but not a giant; nor, as his life unfolds across the next two decades, does he enjoy special protection from grief, anger, love, or loss.

The author’s decision to tell Paul’s story through his friend puts the myth into a realistic context and allows for greater insight into his character. Bunyan begins as an eager innocent who butts up against—and slowly absorbs—the shocks of reality, including a murderous rival logger, a stillborn child, the loss of his parents and wife, and the industrialism that ultimately dooms his way of life. Though Paul never deserts his fellow loggers for long, emotional scars make him something of a recluse who disappears for periods of time in the sole company of Babe the blue ox. Like other folkloric characters and events in the novel, Babe is given a credible background: a calf born dead—i.e., blue—who was revived by Paul.

Though the Paul Bunyan of folklore is often envisaged as a solitary figure, camp life is intricately woven into this Paul’s story. The loggers he works with are vivid and fully-developed characters, men doing dangerous work in the icy forests that once covered North America. They are rough-spoken and uneducated but capable of great loyalty, especially where Paul is concerned. The text incorporates realistic dialogue and metaphors that loggers might have used—a particularly brawny Irish logger is described as “the size of an ale barrel,” while the impact of a tree falling creates “bursts of snow like shrapnel.”

Working in isolated groups of a few dozen men with only their own tales for amusement, it’s easy to imagine how the strongest among them might become fodder for endless stories, and how the stories, circulated from camp to camp, might grow to mythic proportions. Paul Bunyan strips away the myth to deliver an original, fully realized, and moving story of the men who took on the dangerous job of supplying the lumber that built the land.

Review by David Galef, author of My Date with Neanderthal Woman

What more is there to know about Paul Bunyan? Plenty, from the logging camps of the late 1800’s to the start of mechanized tree harvesting–and the giant of a man who spanned it all. Darryl Wimberley’s narrative is no mere tall tale but a full-fledged novel, with details so vivid, you can smell the wood shavings. Along the way are a band of colorful characters like Sourdough Sam and Shot Gunderson, and a bitter feud with a lumber magnate who wipes out (almost) anyone who crosses his path. ‘A logger’s life is magnificent and obdurate and stark,’ Wimberley notes, but Paul’s accomplishments are feats of true daring, and this account gets it all down on the page.

Review by James Cox, Editor-in-Chief at Midwest Book Review

Synopsis: Somewhere in an ancient stand of timber comes a request from an aging lumberjack. „I need me a will“, Paul Bunyan informs his camp’s scribe and bean-counter. „But a will ain’t just a will, Johnny. It’s a testament, too. What a man wants folks to remember ‚bout hisself.“ And so it begins, the story of Paul’s life resurrecting characters like Sourdough Sam and Shot Gunderson along with members of the Potawatomi and Ojibwe tribes whose dreams predict the legend of Bunyan and his blue-hided ox. The deep woods are redolent with beauty and mystery, but also peril. Paul is forced into a dreadful contest with Swede Sturleson, a timber baron emblematic of The Gilded Age. Paul will not emerge unscathed in the course of that long encounter. But something gets born in the interim, something akin to myth or hope, and in that place Paul Bunyan stands without exaggeration.

Critique: „Paul Bunyan“ is a thoroughly entertaining, page-turner of a read from beginning to end, and clearly documents author Darryl Wimberley as an exceptionally talented novelist of the first order. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that „Paul Bunyan“ is also available in a Kindle edition.

Paul Bunyan (English Edition) by Darryl Wimberley

Somewhere in an ancient stand of timber comes a request from an aging lumberjack. „I need me a will,“ Paul Bunyan informs his camp’s scribe and bean-counter. „But a will ain’t just a will, Johnny. It’s a testament, too. What a man wants folks to remember ’bout hisself.“ And so it begins, the story of Paul’s life resurrecting characters like Sourdough Sam and Shot Gunderson along with members of the Potawatomi and Ojibwe tribes whose dreams predict the legend of Bunyan and his blue-hided ox. The deep woods are redolent with beauty and mystery, but also peril. Paul is forced into a dreadful contest with Swede Sturleson, a timber baron emblematic of The Gilded Age. Paul will not emerge unscathed in the course of that long encounter. But something gets born in the interim, something akin to myth or hope, and in that place Paul Bunyan stands without exaggeration. DARRYL WIMBERLEY has been recognized for both novels noir and literary work.

A Tinker’s Damn won the ForeWord Award for „Best Literary Novel“ in 2001. The King of Colored Town was the first novel to garner the Willie Morris Award for Fiction in 2007. Darryl writes, works, and lives with his family in Austin.

ISBN 9789176370179B
W 5 x 8 in or 203 x 127 mm Perfect Bound on Creme w/Gloss Lam

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