Picks and Pans Review: Body

updated 10/01/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/01/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Harry Crews

As soon as the heroine of this novel, Dorothy Turnipseed, of Waycross, Ga., walked into Russell "Muscle" Morgan's Emporium of Pain, Morgan knew he had a potential bodybuilding champ on his hands. He also knew the name had to go sooner rather than later and quickly replaced it with the harder edged, more lyrical Shereel Dupont.

Soon, Shereel is changed into a female Schwarzenegger, ready for the Ms. Cosmos contest (held in a Florida hotel) and the endorsement dollars it promises. One thing clouds the dream Morgan and Dupont share—her family, the visiting Turnipseed clan. Here, Morgan alerts Shereel to her family's arrival and tells how he informed the clan's leader that Dorothy was out:

"What did he say?"

"He told me to go to hell. He said that you may be out but that by God he was in. He said he hadn't come all the way to Florida to sit in a goddamn hotel room."

"That was Daddy."

"I can understand a lot more now. You know what the old bastard said they were going to do?"

"Don't call Daddy a bastard, Russell."

"All the Turnipseeds are coming down to the pool. He said they all meant to go in a bathing. It took a while for me to find out what he meant. In a bathing—that's not even English."

"It is in Waycross, Georgia."

"We're not in Waycross, Georgia."

"We'll see. But I wouldn't talk too sharp to Daddy. He's killed two men already."

Body is a start-to-finish pleasure, full of fun at the expense of the sport of bodybuilding and with the unique ways of the small-town South. But tempering the laughs is a deep respect. Crews, after all, hails from Bacon County, Ga., and is an avowed weight lifter.

Crews has written 11 previous novels and four works of nonfiction and has remained for too long a time a hidden literary treasure. Body is all muscle and as impressive as a 300-pound dead lift. (Poseidon, $18.95)

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