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Pitiful Criminals

Drawings by W. David Powell

List Price: $16.95

August 12, 2014 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.2, 204 Pages | ISBN 9781619023116
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"From the consequences of his brother's schizophrenia to a pastor who suspects murder, these tales are told in a laconic voice that only amplifies their power. With black-and-white line drawings throughout; highly recommended for uncommon readers.” —Library Journal

When Greg Bottoms runs into an old friend from high school, neither man is sure if it’s worth starting their first conversation in over a decade. As teens, they had run with a rough crowd—standard hooligans, in Bottoms’ mind, until his friend became cruel in his violence, exhibiting “pure, gleeful meanness.” Years later, as they cross paths at an ATM in their hometown, the friend can’t believe Bottoms went to college, grad school, is a writing professor with a wife and kids. The friend has been in and out of prison for drugs and drunken brawls, has a son with a black eye waiting in his truck.

In Pitiful Criminals, Greg Bottoms offers thirteen genre-bending chapters from his past that take a close look at the lives of small-time criminals driven, often by confusion and desperation, to deeds that range from the absurd to the heinous. We meet the author’s schizophrenic arsonist brother, a depressed pot grower, a damaged ex-dealer who barely escaped a violent burglary, a born-again teenage shooter, and other alienated Americans driven to extremes by psychology and circumstance. Forceful, poetic, unique, and utterly uncompromising, it is an unforgettable tour of the dark side of the human condition.

Greg Bottoms’s innovative creative nonfiction has focused on the South, the effects of violence on individual lives, mental illness, ecstatic and spiritual experience, and class in America. It blends explicitly autobiographical and biographical content with innovative fictional form, a cultural journalist’s observations, and a philosopher’s deep inquiry into the strange ways we live now.

GREG BOTTOMS is the author of a memoir, Angelhead: My Brother’s Descent into Madness; two books of narrative essays about American self-taught religious artists, The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art; and Spiritual American Trash: Portraits from the Margins of Art and Faith.

Praise

“From the consequences of his brother’s schizophrenia to a pastor who suspects murder, these tales are told in a laconic voice that only amplifies their power. With black-and-white line drawings throughout; highly recommended for uncommon readers.” —Library Journal

“[…] the book depicts these atrocious events with economy, precisely delivering mood and motive in the span of a page or two. Though sunny skies are a rarity here, Bottoms has created a skillfully rendered and devilishly unorthodox set of meditations on the “horrors people do.” —Publishers Weekly

“…Yet [Bottoms] keeps on telling these stories that humanize horror without minimizing it, capturing the potential for pitiful transgressions in all of us. Entertaining as these tales are, they cut to the bone.” —Vermont Weekly

“By turns evocatively understated and rapturously outrageous, Pitiful Criminals is a collision of memory and fiction that compassionately reminds us what makes us human, what makes us stupid, what makes us genuinely abhorrent, and why we are sometimes still worth loving nevertheless.” —John D’Agata, author of About a Mountain and Lifespan of a Fact

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