Razorblade Tears

This month I checked the book club selection, Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby, out of our school library. This meant that I had to change the way I take notes. If I own the books I circle, underline and scribble notes in the margins.

The book centers around a seemingly random act of violence that sends two homophobic, ex-convict fathers, Buddy Lee Jenkins and Ike Randolph. When their sons (one black, one white and married to each other) are murdered, the middle-aged fathers grudgingly come together to avenge the murder of their sons despite both fathers being estranged from their sons and being almost as ashamed of the sons for being gay as the sons were ashamed of the fathers criminal records.

The two ex-cons had nothing in common but a murdering, violent criminal pasts and a love for their dead sons. A brash and unabashed redneck and a tatted up Black small businessman barely holding on to his restraint, Buddy Lee and Ike are virtual strangers who should have become family when their boys fell in love. But bigotry and bad judgment are hard habits to break. Though the book is full of gratuitous violence, blood and profanity, the complexity of the relationship between the fathers is as much a driving force of the storyline as the action; their tense relationship is defined by mistrust and suspicion yet evolves into acceptance and ‘family.’

Though violence is a major component of the narrative in Razorblade Tears I enjoyed the storyline so much that I read the book in to – long – sittings and thought about the characters when I did not have time to read.

Epicurean– fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating and drinking. fit for an epicure: epicurean delicacies. (initial capital letter) of, relating to, or characteristic of Epicurus or Epicureanism.

Tam-o’-shanter – a woolen cap of Scottish origin with a tight headband, wide flat circular crown, and usually a pompon in the center

If you stay prepared, you didn’t have to get prepared. – Andy (before he broke into Isaiah and Derek’s home.

This is who I am. I can’t change. I don’t want to, really. But for once I’m gonna put this devil inside me to good use.” – Buddy Lee at his son’s grave side after he put Andy’s corpse through the wood chipper and buried the chips in a manure pile in Ike’s warehouse.

Human beings were wired to get used to just about anything. That didn’t make you hard. It makes you indoctrinated.

Hirsuteness– Covered with hair; hairy. Covered with stiff or coarse hairs.

…an honest day’s work. Of hours spent beautifying someone’s yard who wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire but had to pay you because they wouldn’t or couldn’t be bothered to put down their own mulch or fertilize their own flower gardens.

Men might walk on two legs but they were the most vicious animals of all. Especially when they thought they had a numbers advantage.

Time makes loyalty thin. People shed it like snakeskin.

I’ve learned to always be ready to be disappointed by white people. Doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it don’t shock me anymore. – Ike to Buddy Lee

…you remember when they used to play The Ten Commandants on television every Easter? And there’s this part where the boy tells his granddaddy to look at the Nubians? My granddaddy on my mamma’s side would always make this joke about them not being Nubians, they just, you know, what he said. And I used to laugh at that joke because it it was my granddaddy saying it. I never thought , I never had to think how someone like you would feel about that joke. Then when I got older I stopped thinking about it, because if that joke was fucked up, then what did that say about my granddaddy? What did it say about me that I laughed at it? – Buddy Lee said to Ike

Folks like to talk about revenge like it’s a righteous thing but it is just hate in a nicer suit. – Ike to Tangerine

Photo Credit: Sam Sauter Photography S. A. Cosby is an Anthony Award-winning writer from Southeastern Virginia. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book, and was named a best book of the year by NPR, The Guardian, and Library Journal, among others. When not writing, he is an avid hiker and chess player.

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