Truth and Fiction

The Wettest County in the World, by Matt Bondurant, is getting some much deserved attention. Over at Powell’s, they’ve got a great original essay about mountain liquor and why you will probably never drink it. Which is a sad truth for those of us who’ve read and loved Wettest County.

The words “great American novel” apply. Prose you could chew, characters epic in proportion and as gritty as the dirt under their fingernails, and Bondurant’s talent for getting in under the skin of history guarantee that you’ll never look at liquor the same way again. The most amazing thing about this novel, to me (aside from creating a fascination with moonshine), was its relationship with Bondurant family history. The subtitle is A Novel Based on a True Story, which is usually a red flag for me. I often find that fiction based on real events sensationalizes, skims, generalizes, or otherwise distorts the reality of the events in question in ways that I (as a history major) do not tend to love. Bondurant, however, brings history to life in a way that acknowledges the history while taking you deeper into the meaning behind it.

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