From Publishers Weekly
Poet and novelist Smith's latest foray into fiction (after poetry collection Word Comix
) is a moody love story (of sorts) in which a man and a woman seem destined never to find permanent happiness. Billy Brent, a former child preacher turned globe-trotting druggie, has been drawn to Alice Stephens since young Billy, acting as minister at Alice's Tom Thumb wedding, attacked the groom. They've been brutal together ever since. Whether he's traipsing around Europe with his friend Henry or working as a reporter in Miami, Billy can't get Alice off his mind, even though she's married to someone else. And though their troubled past does not bode well for a common future, they can't help themselves; amid trips on smugglers' boats, stints in jail, fistfights, and plenty of drugs, the occasionally violent lovers desperately try to figure out a way to be together without destroying one another. Smith's prose is the star: it's unruly, full of an agitated energy, darkly funny and generously dashed with lyricism. But the moments of enchantment diffuse into mystification, and the restlessness so apparent in the characters and prose infects the reader, leading to exhaustion rather than enlightenment. (June)
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*Starred Review* Poet and novelist Smith, a writer of narcotic, erotic, and cosmic intensity, has been showered with major awards and grants. In his sixth novel, his startling, rhapsodic descriptions are mind-blowing, as are his feral, weirdly smart, self-destructive characters, their lashing dialogue, and their insane, heartbreaking predicaments. This isn’t Smith’s first tale of toxic and nihilistic obsession, but it is his most ravishing, painfully funny, and wildly mythic. Floridians Billy and Alice have been making each other crazy since childhood. Billy was a boy preacher, and his gift for exalted, bewitching exhortation has made him a rogue journalist drawn to stories bizarre and disturbing, including that of his epic, terrible love for Alice. Both are mad phoenixes rising repeatedly from conflagrations of their own making. Alice tries to escape by marrying others; Billy relies on drugs, which lead him to deliriously risky escapades, jail, and death’s threshold in Venice and Istanbul, but nothing keeps them apart. Each cursed lover is a hurricane made flesh, their emotions amplified by coastal Florida’s swampy fecundity and steamy beauty, the secretive ocean, and the pitiless sky’s sudden conjuring of massive clouds. This is infernal romance––hallucinatory, wanton, noirish, terrifying, and magnificently tragic. --Donna Seaman