Sapp, Gregg. Dollarapalooza: or the Day Peace Broke out in Columbus. DeKalb, Illinois: Switchgrass Books, 2011.


“When the sun rises over Ohio, it casts the whole nation’s shadow.”

“Say what?”

“What I’m saying is that you can take the boy out of Ohio…”

“But you can’t take Ohio out of the boy. Oh, jeez, old man. That’s what you told me when I was a kid, and I didn’t believe it then.”

“And if it wasn’t try, you wouldn’t be here today.”

– Von Carp talking with Milt Carp in Dollarapalooza (218)


There has been a long, long tradition in literature of the wayward son returning home after experiencing life abroad (or simply away from home).  Dating back to even beyond Odysseus, this has become a common theme of American literature, from the Godfather to My Antonia.  It contrasts and works together with another big theme of American literature – the idea of mobility and, more simply, coming and going from a place. Think of a character catching a train or plain at the end of a novel or movie – destination may or may not be known.  Really, pick up any non-genre literary novel, and there is a good chance that a central plot point involves one of the main characters either coming or going home. The home is usually celebrated for its evils, virtues, or simply its folksy character. The return typically teaches the son his or her non-geographic place in the world – in that place called home.  These fictional wayward sons often become synonymous with real life geography – for example, Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel and Ashville, North Carolina.

This brings me to Gregg Sapp’s Dollarapalooza, a novel about a wayward son, Vonn Carp, who emerges from the pieces of a shattered life in his hometown of Columbus – more specifically, the north side of Columbus. Vonn returns to Columbus for a family funeral, and Milt (Vonn’s father) persuades him to start a family business – an improbable, locally-owned dollar store.  Continue reading