Book review by Roy E. Perry: T. R. Pearson’s “The Last of How It Was”


Editor’s Note:  Roy E. Perry, the self-proclaimed “amateur philosopher” of Nolensville, TN, wrote book reviews for The Tennessean and Nashville Banner for 30 years. In this new review, Mr. Perry continues his focus on Southern literature published within the past several decades, specifically the work of T.R. Pearson. D.C.


In The Last of How It Was (1987), the final volume of T. R. Pearson’s trilogy that includes A Short History of a Small Place (1985) and Off for the Sweet Hereafter (1986), narrator Louis Benfield, Jr. relates tall tales—antics, high-jinks, and buffoonery—from his family’s history, as told by Louis’s daddy Louis, with interruptions and corrections from Aunt Sister (Louis’ great-aunt) and Louis’s mother.

Does murder run in the family? Young Louis Benfied, Jr., listens raptly as Daddy and Momma and Aunt Sister discuss. Describing various members of their family tree, Aunt Sister calls their condition “foolishness, a blood thing, wrongheaded plain and simple, misdirected, wild and unmedicated.” Momma prefers to describe it as “passion, temperament, a chemical problem.” Daddy prefers “pigheaded lunacy.”

The main story of this novel concerns an ancestor’s perilous encounter with an Indian who steals his trusty mule, “little Spud,” and the karma that then visits the sneaky thief. Falling victim to a smooth-talking salesman, he winds up with fifteen “Oklahoma hybrid cultivated mules” that actually are scrawny, puny, and not worth a plug nickel. He is proficient in the art of storytelling; each time he tells the mule story, he uses “poetic license” and “pacing and poetical velocity” to embellish and expand the tale’s particulars.

The Last of How It Was is written in a rambling, circuitous style, with rabbit chases popping up without warning—a style that, for some reviewers, is tedious and annoying. Once one gets into the swing of things, however, the diversions and repetitions make one chuckle and then laugh out loud. One discovers a method in T. R. Pearson’s madness, a charming randomness reminiscent of the musings and recollections of a favorite grandparent sitting on the front porch or at the family hearth.

For other book reviews by Roy E. Perry, please visit:

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at and Dave is also a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer.

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit and/or the page on Facebook:

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Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew



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