I recently rode the bus for several hours around the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Up the coast to the North Shore, down the center of the island into Honolulu, over the Pali mountain highway and back over to the east side town of Kaneohe and its volcanically produced ocean bay, where I currently reside. I rode the bus all day specifically to get some reading time in. It's about a 2-2.5 hour ride up to North Shore, and during that time I read Mr. Allen's sobering neo-beat tale of youth anguish set in the southern United States.
What first struck me as interesting is the well-honed focus of the story. A lot of beat literature tends to stray from their stories with many side anecdotes that do nothing to further the plot. RCB never loses sight of its core, however: This is a story of young love.
Jack and Ruby (A nod to a certain Oswald-killing man, perhaps?) are the young lovers in question. Jack moved to Garr County, Georgia from Atlanta while Ruby's lived there her whole life. Despite their differences they both abhor the stale culture of their surroundings, and the two cling to each other for support, drugs or otherwise.
Overstimulated but undersexed, Jack's angst is like a trick candle, easy to blow out momentarily but impossible to keep from resparking. Get ready for a shitstorm if you run into Jack on a day when he's broke and out of cigarettes. He finds solace from his problems hanging out with Ruby, their minds escaping together into beer cans and clouds of marihuana smoke.
Mr. Allen has painted a stone cold portrait of growing up in the middle of nowhere. No sympathy, no leniency, and no excuses. Grey lines keep the characters ambivalent. There is no clear right or wrong when life is getting by day-to-day looking for cheap forms of entertainment and waiting for something, anything to happen. So it goes in Small Town, USA.