Book Discovery: Standing and Waiting by Graham Richardson

Standing and Waiting by Graham Richardson_The BookWalker

We come into contact with many people in the course of our lives. We find ourselves in different situations with multi-layered tones and atmospheres. Some of these people and situations may not have an impact on our stories. We forget them right after the moment we deal with them. Others, however, will play a huge role in who we eventually become as a person. And if we were in any way talented with words, these people and these situations become characters and events in our body of work.

According to Graham Richardson, his novel Standing and Waiting is a showcase of the characters and situations that he has lived through. Moments in Standing and Waiting are based on events that he has experienced. In the same manner, the characters that we find in this novel are also based on real people that he has encountered. Due to this inspiration and auto-biographical approach, you will find Standing and Waiting authentic. It is true to its time, locales, and people.

Standing and Waiting is a novel of intersecting plotlines. In one, we are brought to a small Tennessee town in the 1950s through the 1970s. In the other, the stories are centered around a small university in Tennessee between 1987 and 1990. The stories explore themes of culture, race relations, and religion in ways that are quintessentially Southern. They bring us back to a time when the integration of races was still a hot button issue. They give us a glimpse into what it is like to be in a relationship with a biracial person in Tennessee in the late 80s.

The author himself admits that nothing goes on in this novel, as far as plot is concerned. While many readers would agree, this does not make Standing and Waiting any less compelling. It is a novel that is moved forward by its intriguing characters, the situations they find themselves in, and the atmosphere of the times surrounding them. And the fact that these events and characters are based on scenes and people that the author himself encountered just adds to the novel’s overall allure.

You will find the style reminiscent of William Faulkner or Malcolm Lowry, with its stream of consciousness type of storytelling. Standing and Waiting is a whirling brew of events, ideas, and intriguing people. Presented in one sweeping novel, it is an ambitious work of art that is sure to bring you back to interesting times as told from the perspective of equally interesting characters.

Reviews and What Readers Say

" Graham Richardson’s novel presents a sweep of events in two, inter-related plot lines: one in a small Tennessee town (1950s through 1970s) and the other at a small denominational university, also in Tennessee (1987 – 1990). Along the way are interludes at large state colleges and universities (Middle Tennessee State College; University of Tennessee, Knoxville) and a final move outside of the state to a community college (the fictional Charleston State Community College). The transitions would seem to signal movement from the mid-South—where presumably race, religious, and other social issues might be treated with more tolerance—to a Deep South locale, the actual nexus of the old slave trade in North America and a bastion of Jim Crow mores. But not so. Richardson must have an intimate knowledge of Middle Tennessee—its culture, its people, its race relations—and the area possesses definitive markers of racial discrimination that one might expect in Mississippi or Alabama or South Carolina. In the stories of a white Baptist church that ignores integrating its members and a white college professor who feels that he must keep his marriage to a beautiful African-American college professor a secret, Richardson explores an interesting human topography. Some readers might question the plausibility of the novel’s events and relationships. Other novelists have probably explored these contours of inter-racial marriage in the South; I myself am not aware of their stories. Richardson’s stories provide enough commentary for two complete novels (as the length of 666 pages would indicate). In fact, the novel would be two novels, if not for inter-connecting motifs and images between the two parts. Add other issues—capitalistic madness in a small town (the erecting of buildings and the planting of retail businesses), Southern Baptist church doctrine, denominational college administration, the state of literary scholarship in medieval and Renaissance studies, theoretical microbiology—and the novel becomes a whirling brew of ideas and scenes told in a quasi-stream-of-consciousness (faux Faulkner or Malcolm Lowry, with not so much of the talent of either). A reader may get lost in the story but find his or her way out by page 666. The novel contains more talkative meditation than action, more telling of events than of showing, and an insistent analysis of egotistic authority figures (in the form of Baptist deacons and college administrators). That analysis reveals in measure Richardson’s disgust concerning such figures (two or three male, and one female) drunk with the extent of their power in a relatively small social enclave. The entire situations of the novel seem based on autobiographical events. Graham Richardson (if that is his or her real name) may well be asked to confess these events and the tinge of bitterness and irony in tone that surrounds them."

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Graham Richardson has lived in and attended various schools and universities in Tennessee. He has taught college English for over thirty years in various schools across the Southeastern United States. He currently lives with his wife in Anderson County, South Carolina.

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