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BOOK REVIEW: Work Shirts for Madmen by George Singleton


“If you can’t make sense of life, you can at least scratch your head and laugh at it.” – Michael Ray Taylor on how southern writers approach literature, Nashville Scene

Harp Spillman has lost count of the years spent living in the bottle. He’s ruined his reputation as metal sculptor, joked himself out of a lucrative career as a freelance ice sculptor and is now living off the good graces of his wife Raylou. When a commission of twelve-foot-high metal angels made out of hex nuts for Birmingham, Alabama gets approved (although he can’t remember applying), Harp realizes it’s time to hang up the bottle and return to the mig-welder. Fate decides he needs some moral support and sends him the Elbow Boys, although Harp wonders if isn’t just another of Raylou’s schemes…

Confused? Don’t be surprised – George Singleton’s writing epitomizes Michael Ray Taylor’s quote from Nashville Scene, this is Gonzo fiction at its finest. In Work Shirts for Madmen, Singleton paints with words using wide brush strokes; readers may not always know what is going on but there will be a vivid picture running in your head while you try to figure it out. With novels and short stories chock full of unfathomable characters and surreal situations, Singleton’s forte is his uncanny ability to keep readers laughing even while their hearts are breaking. Many of Singleton’s characters seem to have just stepped off a film set; I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Elbow Boys showing up in Tarantino’s next movie. And Harp’s ice sculpture creations melting at the Republican convention begs to be captured on film.

Even though there is such a strong cinematic quality to Work Shirts for Madmen, beneath all the laughs and eccentricities at its heart this is a novel about making sense of life after hitting rock bottom. Whether you’re attracted by the title or fiction featuring anteaters, make sure to grab this one for a day when you need a dose of surreal, you’ll be awfully glad you did.

Check out largehearted boy for George Singleton’s picks of music to accompany to accompany Work Shirts for Madmen.

ISBN10: 0151013071
ISBN13: 9780151013074

336 Pages
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: September 17, 2007
Author Website:


posted under fiction, Top Picks
One Comment to

“BOOK REVIEW: Work Shirts for Madmen by George Singleton”

  1. On January 22nd, 2008 at 4:01 pm Jeane Says:

    I’m curious about it because it’s about a sculptor; is there much description of that?

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