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Darlington's Fall Hardcover – March 19, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (March 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375411488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375411489
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #750,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The lepidopterist Russ Darlington, who stands at the center of Leithauser's novel in verse, is torn between Wordsworth's nature ("Nature never did betray the heart that loved her") and Darwin's, with its vulgarized slogan, "survival of the fittest." Leithauser uses 10-line stanzas to take us from the Booth Tarkington-like Indiana of Russ's birth in 1888 to his second marriage, in the 1930s. Russ shows an early inclination to study nature and more specifically, butterflies, finding an ally in an eccentric Austrian exile, Professor Schrock, who tutors him in German and natural science. At Old University, it becomes clear that Russ is meant to be a professor. Unfortunately, he falls for and marries the flirtatious Pauline Beaudette, who is surely not meant to be a professor's wife. But before their temperamental differences become too evident, Russ sets out for Malaya to collect butterflies. He never makes it. On the Pacific island of Ponape, hunting a stray Morpho, he falls and is crippled. Once he comes home, he separates from Pauline, making a bachelor nest with his father. Leithauser leads us up to the 1930s, when Russ, alone and debilitated, proposes to his maid, and then, in a long coda, he combines Russ's dream on the night before his second marriage with Leithauser's own journey to Ponape. Russ's vision of life as "a sort of swap-shop/ an auction run without an auctioneer" is a view of chance and selection regretfully purified of Wordsworthian sentiment and very much in tune with our own neo-Darwinian times. 12 line drawings by Mark Leithauser. (Mar. 27)Forecast: Though Leithauser's latest is more accessible than its form might suggest, it lacks the sense of urgency and invention that encouraged readers of Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red to brave a book-length poem. For inveterate fans only.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Leithauser is a rare literary talent, equally at home in verse or prose, as shown by his distinguished publication record five novels, four books of poetry, and one book of essays. His latest effort is a successful hybrid of all his talents: a novel in verse that is sumptuously detailed, highly readable, and studded with authorial intrusions revealing Leithauser's biographical connection to the events of the narrative. Leithauser tells a powerful love story centered on Russ Darlington, an Indiana entomologist and child prodigy whose career was cut short by a tragic accident on a Polynesian island. That was his first "fall"; the second was falling in love with his beautiful young housekeeper, Marja. The lucky reader will delight in the "dailiness and rootedness" of the narrative and the occasional transcendent "moment of dizziness stirred by sympathy." Strongly recommended for all collections. Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, IL
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Novels in verse are fairly rare: Pushkin's 'Eugene Onegin', Vikram Seth's 'The Golden Gate', and Nobelist Derek Walcott's 'Omeros', come to mind. This novel is composed of ten-line stanzas with a rhyme scheme that mandates each line-end have a rhyme-mate somewhere in the stanza, but these ryhmes occur in irregular places, e.g. ABCCADDEEB, as in this sample verse, chosen at random from page 161:
(Nothing on earth, surely there's nothing on earth,
So hopeful, so suggestive of some gilt, goaled kindness
Or mercy at the heart of Nature than the notion
Of convergent evolution--
This thought that the ranged obstacles to any birth
Are immaterial and can be sidestepped . . .
The eye, for instance--look how Nature kept
Contriving it anew, freshly seeing its way
Out of the darkness--as if, at the end of the day,
The mind were _destined_ to escape from blindness.)
The language used tends to be only slightly elevated in tone, and conversational American English creeps in comfortably. Other reviewers have summarized the plot about the life of a boy prodigy who becomes a lepidopterist, has a terrible fall on a remote Pacific Island that cripples him. The protagonist is a gentle, lovable man whose training in Darwinian concepts leads him to accept the randomness and cruelty of life, but whose Wordsworthian love of Nature is never dimmed. I found the plot to be quite involving (as well as involved) and I had trouble slowing down my reading to savor the poetry.
A book to be treasured and re-read.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stan Nevin on April 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful combination of left brain and right brain this book is. It communicates in ways that no novel or poem ever could. No poem could have the emotional drive of this story with these characters - and yet the verse does much to heighten that drive in the most dramatic sequences. No novel could match the satisfying, complexly intelligent structure of this verse - but the sweep of this novel allows for intellectual explorations which - for me at least - no poem could ever support. Actually, I've never been a fan of long poems before, but I found the verse here very accessible - it supports the characters and the story, rather than simply calling attention to itself. I really enjoyed this book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Geatz on June 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was initially attracted to this book because I HAVE been to Ponape (now known as Pohnpei) and was surprised to find the obscure island a location for a novel. I was further intrigued by the idea of a novel in verse form (although I must admit that this aspect alone might have led me to avoid it). I'm glad I didn't. The verse is musical without being obvious, distracting (or obtuse), and the story is an interesting one--a love story on many levels and one that makes insightful observations about human nature, natural selection, adaption and evolution. Despite the joy it brought me, I did find myself at times wanting more--more detail, more exploration, more connection between the "writer" and his "subject." But that is a minor complaint, for a book that surprised me in so many ways.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Raul V. Clement on November 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
At the risk of hyperbole, I'm going to say it: this is a work of genius. It's a shame that it occupies such a weird literary purgatory (by virtue of being a memeber of that platypus-like form, the novel in verse) because it deserves to be read and taught in schools, made part of the cannon, and above all to sell a million copies. But who would want to read a really long poem about an entomologist? Answer: everyone--if that poem is as moving, as transcendant, as good a story, and as unobtrusive in its pyrotechnics as this one. yes, there are fireworks, but most of the time you forget it's the fourth of july. read it if you like novels. read it if you're a student of poetry. as an amateur writer of both myself, I can only describe it as a humbling expereince. leithauser deserves your money. Darlington's Fall
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