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Accordion Crimes Paperback – June 17, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (June 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684831546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684831541
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Proulx found fertile, if rocky, soil for her first two novels (Postcards and The Shipping News) in the far northeastern corner of North America. In Accordion Crimes she ranges much further afield. The novel follows an accordion from the hands of its maker in Sicily in 1890 until it is flattened by a truck in Florida in 1996. In the intervening century it passes through the hands of a host of unlucky owners and their kin: Abelardo Relampago, who dies from the bite of a poisonous spider; Dolor Gagnon, decapitated by his own chain saw; Silvano, cut down in the jungles of Venezuela by an Indian's arrow. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

America's ethnic minorities have rarely been rendered with the insight, intuition and unsentimental candor that Proulx brings to the large canvas of characters and reaches of landscape in this ambitious new work. The narrative has eight parts, each composed of short vignettes that depict the cultural baggage?the attitudes, behaviors and social conditioning?that immigrants brought with them, and the ways in which they joined, yet held aloof from, American society. Beginning in the late 1800s and ending 100 years later, the novel follows a vividly realized cast of characters, whose names are as colorful as their stories: Ludwig Messermacher, Abelardo Relampago Salazar, Dolor Gagnon, Onesiphore Malefoot, Hieronim Przybysz. Their common bond is ownership of a green button accordion, which was brought to these shores by a Sicilian immigrant and, after his death at the hands of a lynch mob, was transported back and forth across the continent by various combinations of inheritance, violence and bad luck. With mesmerizing skill, Proulx summons up the attitudes and speech of her characters, vigorously detailing a formidable number of settings, including New Orleans, Hornet, Texas, Random, Maine, Prank, Iowa, and Old Glory, Minnesota. She can evoke a teeming, fetid slum as clearly as she can a Montana ranch. An invariable characteristic of these immigrants and their families is the tendency to think of others as "Americans." In their own minds, they are still Italians or Germans or Norwegians or Poles or French Canadian or Cajuns. Almost without exception, they express ancient prejudices and newfound racism: the New Orleans natives hate the Italians, who hate the blacks; Iowa's Germans hate the Irish. What makes all this so spectacular is th at Proulx is a master at incorporating potentially numbing detail and specificity?from the components of an accordion to the bloodlines of Appaloosas and the stages of a Polish funeral?into her vigorous prose. Traditional ethnic music?played by various characters during their brief ownership of the increasingly derelict accordion?is conveyed with impressive authority. The range of scenes, from a drunken birthday party that resembles an animated Booth cartoon to a brutal reaction to a civil rights sit-in at a lunch counter, bespeaks a brilliant imagination. Proulx makes grotesque accidents, bloody catastrophes and bizarre events seem an inescapable part of human existence. If eventually some sameness of mood occurs, and a resultant diminution of tension, this is balanced by the reader's interest in the accordion's odyssey and in the lives it touches en route. For this is a cautionary tale in which pride and greed and self-delusion vie with basic human needs for love, comfort and spiritual sustenance. BOMC dual main selection; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Annie Proulx's The Shipping News won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Award for Fiction, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. She is the author of two other novels: Postcards, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, and Accordion Crimes. She has also written two collections of short stories, Heart Songs and Other Stories and Close Range. In 2001, The Shipping News was made into a major motion picture. Annie Proulx lives in Wyoming and Newfoundland.

Customer Reviews

I finished this book, and all I could think was "DAMN, I really wish I hadn't read that."
jp
The book is readable, but it is essentially a collection of depressing (and troubling) short stories.
dibaby@csua.berkeley.edu
The prose is elegant, the violence is elegant, and the characters are elegance in the raw.
Robert T. Turner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an ambitious novel of Americana told through the device of an accordion brought to New Orleans in 1890 by a Sicilian immigrant.
The book is peopled with a huge variety of colorful characters, and the immigrant experience of Italians, Africans, Germans, Mexicans, French, Polish and Irish people are depicted with her skillful social perception, outstanding dialog and overflowing images of the absurdities, chance circumstances and cruelties of their lives.
Each of her people die grim and violent deaths, and live small and hate-full lives. There are dozens of characters and not one of them is happy or finds fulfillment. It is a dark novel, which is grim and depressing with occasional comic elements which only enhance absurdities of life.
As I got more deeply into the book, I found it hard to pick up because I knew I would be bombarded with another sad story of someone's useless and pain-filled life. And then I couldn't put it down because, in spite of this, the skillful writing would pull me along.
The stories are loosely strung together, with occasional flash-forwards for one of the characters, usually describing another future ugly meaningless death.
She's writing about the underclass. And the reverse side of the American dream. She does it well. So well, in fact, that her images of lynching, illness, accidents, abusive relationships and cruelty are not easily forgotten. It is not a pleasant picture. But yet, it is surprisingly
refreshing. Perhaps because, in spite of her deep and colorful characterizations, the reader doesn't feel particularly sympathetic to their tragedies and meaningless lives.
It's a good book, but read it only if you are unafraid to enter a world of unrelenting pain.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an ambitious novel of Americana told through the device of an
accordion brought to New Orleans in 1890 by a Sicilian immigrant. The
book is peopled with a huge variety of colorful characters, and the
immigrant experience of Italians, Africans, Germans, Mexicans, French,
Polish and Irish people are depicted with her skillful social
perception, outstanding dialog and overflowing images of the
absurdities, chance circumstances and cruelties of their lives. Each
of her people die grim and violent deaths, and live small and hatefull
lives. There are dozens of characters and not one of them is happy or
finds fulfillment. It is a dark novel, which is grim and depressing
with occasional comic elements which only enhance absurdities of
life.
As I got more deeply into the book, I found it hard to pick up
because I knew I would be bombarded with another sad story of
someone's useless and pain-filled life. And then I couldn't put it
down because, in spite of this, the skillful writing would pull me
along. The stories are loosely strung together, with occasional
flash-forwards for one of the characters, usually describing another
future ugly meaningless death. She's writing about the underclass.
And the reverse side of the American dream. She does it well. So
well, in fact, that her images of lynching, illness, accidents,
abusive relationships and cruelty are not easily forgotten. It is not
a pleasant picture. But yet, it is surprisingly refreshing. Perhaps
because, in spite of her deep and colorful characterizations, the
reader doesn't feel particularly sympathetic to their tragedies and
meaningless lives.
It's a good book, but read it only if you are
unafraid to enter a world of unrelenting pain.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By "jisom2" on September 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
In Accordion Crimes, Proulx wonderfully pulls together a cross-section of America for a hundred years to the present in interwoven short stories about the people whose lives intersect with a handmade accordion brought from Sicily to make its creator's fortune. The stories often end in the death of the current accordion owner which gives us in a dramatic way a sense that our own death will be as distinctively our own and as inevitable as the deaths of her characters. Instead of a great sentimentalized abstraction, Proulx shows that death is as ever-present as life, is the architect of life. In this book, even the accordion dies, slipping gracefully through its ages of usefulness, to disuse, to abandonment. This is a wonderful book and I recommend it to anyone who has been starved for REAL fiction as I have. Proulx is the real thing on a large scale. To those who were depressed by the book, I suggest taking a close look at their own lives because it seems to me they are wasting their time looking for meretricious comforts and have allowed their sensibilities to be lulled by too many soothing professional lies.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By AppleBrownBetty on November 17, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I, like many readers, came to Ms. Proulx after reading her much-acclaimed "Shipping News," and was delightfully surprised that she switches gears completely and successfully with each new novel. The plot of Accordian Crimes, if you can call it that, is written within the same vein as several other films and novels of the nineties. The premice: the author follows a single object through its lifespan--proving that the lives of our possessions are oftentimes more interesting than our own.
The green accordian of the title comes to the New World in the hands of an Italian musician. Both find themselves in New Orleans, itself an interesting melting-pot backdrop and initial setting. Proulx then follows the instrument through generation of immigrants: Italian, German, French-Canadian, Polish. Her prose is astounding and her language and history well-researched and authentic.
Most of the immigrant groups come across as very unrefined, but all are linked through their desire to preserve their cultural heritage through music. And the accordian--one of the most ridiculed of all instruments--is the desired musical means.
There is a twist to the ending which I found unnecessary, but all in all I found this book very engaging. I particularly recommend it to those interested in glimpsing a bit of the various groups that would leave their footprints across America, or what the United States was like before mass culture became the norm.
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