Sandlin, Tim 1950–

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Sandlin, Tim 1950–

(Peter and Delores Pym)

PERSONAL: Born August 10, 1950, in Duncan, OK; son of Hoyt Nick (a school administrator) and Elizabeth (a writer and journalist; maiden name, Bernard) Sandlin; married Carol Chesney, April 1, 1998. Education: University of Oklahoma, B.A., 1974; University of North Carolina at Greensboro, M.F.A., 1986. Politics: "Democrat." Religion: "Militant pantheism." Hobbies and other interests: Environmental action, country western music, college basketball, his cats.

ADDRESSES: Home—Box 1974, Jackson, WY 83001. Agent—Phillipa Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic, 1 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010; Charles Ferraro, United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Rocky Mountain Big Game, Jackson, WY, elk skinner, 1974–76; Bridger Teton National Forest, Jackson, conducted trail inventory, 1976–77; Lame Duck Chinese Restaurant, Jackson, cook, 1982–87; writer, 1987–.

MEMBER: Writers Guild of America, Writers Guild of Canada, Authors Guild, Authors Guild of America, Enoch Emery Society.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow of Wyoming Council for the Humanities, 1988; Pacesetter Award, Wyoming Press Association, 1990 and 1992; Prism Award for accurate depiction of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction in a television movie, miniseries, or dramatic special,1999, for Floating Away.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Sex and Sunsets, Holt (New York, NY), 1987.

Western Swing, Holt (New York, NY), 1988.

Skipped Parts, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.

Sorrow Floats, Holt (New York, NY), 1992.

Social Blunders, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.

Honey Don't, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.

OTHER

The Pyms: Unauthorized Tales of Jackson Hole (nonfiction), Oothoon Press (Jackson, WY), 1991.

Author of "As the Hole Deepens," a column in Jackson Hole News, under pseudonym Peter and Delores Pym.

ADAPTATIONS: Sorrow Floats was adapted as the film Floating Away, 1998. A film version of Skipped Parts was released by Trimark Films in 2000.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty, a novel for Riverhead, planned for fall 2006 release.

SIDELIGHTS: Tim Sandlin's novels chronicle his quirky characters' lives in a manner that is frequently humorous—"alternately wry and zany, caustic and innocent," as William Brisick put it in a 1991 Publishers Weekly feature article on Sandlin. His protagonists, Brisick observed, tend to be "outsiders well removed from society's mainstream." Sandlin's treatment of these characters has brought him considerable attention in the literary world; Brisick noted: "In a region heretofore dominated by Larry McMurtry, Tom McGuane and Ed Abbey, Tim Sandlin, of Oklahoma and Wyoming, is emerging as a new and wickedly funny talent."

After graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 1974, Sandlin worked at manual-labor and service-industry jobs, such as washing dishes in a restaurant. He put this experience to use in Sex and Sunsets, about a dishwasher's quest for love. Several reviewers liked the novel; others seemed to like Western Swing, about an aspiring novelist married to a country singer, even better.

Sandlin followed Western Swing with the trilogy of Skipped Parts, Sorrow Floats, and Social Blunders. The trilogy follows the relationship of Sam Callahan and Maurey Pierce over the course of twenty years. Skipped Parts introduces the pair in 1963 at age thirteen. Sam and his unconventional mother, Lydia, have just moved to the small town of GroVont, Wyoming. Sam, who loves books, daydreams a lot, and does not quite fit in with his peers, finds a kindred spirit in Maurey, a smart, willful, attractive girl. Sam and Maurey are curious about sex, the "skipped part" of books and movies. Lydia is not always nice to Sam—she tends to heap verbal abuse on him—but on this point, she is happy to oblige him: She teaches Sam and Maurey how to make love. Maurey becomes pregnant but still insists that she and Sam date other people. Publishers Weekly contributor Sybil Steinberg found Skipped Parts an "offbeat, engaging novel" and praised it as "confirming the promise of Sex and Sunsets and Western Swing." New York Times Book Review contributor Patricia Volk liked some aspects of the book—Sam's "Walter Mitty-like fantasies are tiny comic gems," she commented—but was disappointed by others. "Mr. Sandlin sets a herculean task here: recalling a boy's loss of innocence from an adult's point of view while maintaining the voice of a boy," she explained. "Since this antic look at child abuse is told in retrospect, the reader waits and waits for Sam to acknowledge the power early tragic events have had on his life. He never does."

Sorrow Floats catches up with Maurey at age twenty-three. She is an alcoholic, still living in GroVont, and enduring a loveless marriage to a real estate agent named Dothan Talbot. Shannon, her daughter by Sam, is living in North Carolina. She also has a baby son; while on a drinking binge brought on by her father's death, she drives through town with the infant on the roof of her car. After attempting suicide, then being evicted by her husband, Maurey meets Lloyd and Shane, two Alcoholics Anonymous members who have a moneymaking scheme involving a cross-country drive. She agrees to go with them, in hopes of being reunited with Shannon. "Able storytelling and an engaging cast of dysfunctional modern American pilgrims animate this winning tale of the road," enthused Sybil Steinberg in Publishers Weekly. Some other reviewers were less impressed. "Sorrow Floats sinks under its own excessive weight, a good picaresque novel whose material is spread thin through too many words," wrote Joseph Coates in the Chicago Tribune. Los Angeles Times contributor Carolyn See deemed Maurey an unbelievable character. For one thing, See wrote, Maurey is portrayed as lacking sexual desire: "She hasn't had a physical thought about a man in years. If a woman wrote this disrespectfully about the bodily fluids of the male sex, she'd catch green hell for it." Karen Karbo, critiquing for the New York Times Book Review, had another problem with the character. "Maurey's boozy, wisecracking manner is supposed to mask her vulnerability," Karbo remarked. "And her boozing—not to mention her continual denial that it's a problem—is supposed to suggest how much trouble she's in. But to Mr. Sandlin's credit—and, unfortunately, to the novel's detriment—Maurey is so ebullient, so intelligent, so basically level-headed that there's little suspense about what lies ahead. We never question that Maurey will, in the end, somehow manage to shape up and dry out."

Social Blunders is set in 1984. Sam is in his early thirties and living in North Carolina with Shannon, while Maurey, now sober, is on a ranch in Wyoming. Sam's second marriage has just ended, and he takes on a project to lift him out of the depression brought on by this event: to find the five men who allegedly gang-raped his mother when she was fourteen, leaving her pregnant with Sam. "Sam's ultimate motives remain unclear," reported Chicago Tribune reviewer James Idema. "Does Sam intend to check subtly for genetic traits, or maybe press for DNA tests, in order to single out his father? And then what? Enjoy the warm, paternal bond he has been missing for most of his life? Or would he wreak vengeance on him—or on all five suspects?" Sam's search allows Sandlin to show his protagonist dealing with various obstacles, "like dragons in the path of a knight-errant," Idema noted.

Some critics expressed distaste for the use of gang rape as the novel's key plot device. This "nasty contrivance that sets its plot in motion leads at least this critic to suggest that the novelist has become desperate for laughs," Idema wrote. "Never mind that the rape eventually turns out not to have been quite the outrage Lydia first described. Readers are led through most of the book to believe that it was, and by the time they learn otherwise, the harm has been done." New York Times Book Review contributor Jay Gummerman observed that "by introducing as serious a central plot element as gang rape in the very early going, Mr. Sandlin seems to be announcing that his novel will be serving up more than just humor. This is a dangerous strategy if more than just humor is rarely delivered, especially when the gang rape becomes merely one more twist in what amounts to a shaggy dog story, however well told. Still, from another perspective this sort of pulling out the rug can make the farcical humor of Social Blunders that much funnier to forbearing readers seeking a wildly satirical look at modern life. Social Blunders is nicely comic—and more—when it settles down and allows readers to catch their breath." A Publishers Weekly critic thought the novel very comic indeed, and asserted that "as rendered by Sandlin, [Sam's] voice is an effective blend of flippancy and compassion."

Sandlin once told CA: "I write because one life is not enough. My work does not always turn out artistically neat: my characters tend to live in chaos, and from that, I find a quiet joy and peace. There aren't any real people around the Gros Ventre Mountains where I live, so my created characters give me someone interesting to talk to."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1992, Joseph Coates, review of Sorrow Floats, section 5, p. 3; June 5, 1995, James Idema, review of Social Blunders, section 5, p. 3.

Los Angeles Times, December 7, 1992, Carolyn See, review of Sorrow Floats, section E, p. 4.

New York Times Book Review, March 24, 1991, Patricia Volk, review of Skipped Parts, p. 12; October 11, 1992, Karen Karbo, review of Sorrow Floats, p. 23; August 6, 1995, Jay Gummerman, review of Social Blunders, p. 33.

Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Skipped Parts pp. 45-46; March 22, 1991, William Brisick, "Tim Sandlin: His Third Novel Is the First in a Projected Trilogy," pp. 61-62; July 20, 1992, Sybil Steinberg, review of Sorrow Floats, pp. 220-221; May 1, 1995, review of Social Blunders, p. 42.

ONLINE

Tim Sandlin Home Page, http://timsandlin.com (December 3, 2005).