I guess it was about twelve years ago at least that I read Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina. (Editor's Note: Now eighteen!) What an experience that was; it absolutely bowled me over. A few years later she came to Minneapolis to speak at the Amazon Women's Bookstore (no relation to the online outfit, which it pre-dated by two decades.) I think it was then that I bought Two or Three Things I Know For Sure, her book of essays which quickly became a classic of queer non-fiction, as her novel was of queer literature.
I was probably expecting more of the same in Cavedweller. Although there is some pain and guilt and a soap-opera worth of messed-up lives, and although it still has that ineffable ability to bring back my own Southern childhood and young adult days through subtle references to sounds and smells and plants and foods and places, it is just not in the same league as Bastard Out of Carolina. That might be A Good Thing, though, because I am sure a lot of people just couldn't quite take Bastard Out of Carolina; it was very raw and very real (largely autobiographical) and yet very alien to most people who, when they say they had a horrible childhood, don't quite mean the same thing as Dorothy Allison means. I love Dorothy Allison, and I will happily read anything she writes. But I think BOOC was a one-shot deal.