Review of Bluegrass Funeral
By Don Boes
As a native Kentuckian, I approached Bluegrass Funeral by Joseph G. Anthony with interest. The book, a collection of short fiction, moves back and forth in time from the 1850’s to 2007. The place is central Kentucky, though not the land of the aristocracy but rather the underclass: slaves and their owners, hitchhikers and farmers. Some of the characters surface in more than one story, as their younger or older selves, as not yet wise or wiser. In addition, Anthony’s stories appear out of chronological order to reinforce the Faulkner epigram that introduces us to the collection: “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.” For example, the first story, “The Naming,” takes place in Lexington in 1871 in the aftermath of the Civil War while the next story, “Dancing Benny,” takes place in 1858 and is in the form of a monologue by an escaped slave. Such a strategy challenges the linear and conventional (and convenient) view of the world that we often find so comfortable. I’m reminded of a similar Russian proverb that goes something like this: “The future is easy to predict. It’s the past that keeps changing.” The past does indeed change but continues to live and to be lived in. Bluegrass Funeral is an ambitious attempt to capture what it means to be alive in such a timeless place as Kentucky.