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Waveland (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – May 4, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
One review below mentions that the setting of post-hurricane Katrina is insignificant. I believe the opposite is true, and that the setting is highly significant (not in terms of "meaning too much" but in terms of just being important), seeing as how these characters have already blown up their own lives. The Mississippi Coast, then serves as a perfect place for them to rebuild, both literally and figuratively.
I am unsure how characters can be both too ordinary and too quirky, but I found these characters to be neither. They were interesting, and weird, yes, but thank goodness for that.
Another review says it is "painful" to hear the characters "prattling on" about Ipods and TV like "disaffected young adults." That reviewer seems to be saying to the characters, "Get back into the ricking chair where you belong, old fogies!" More importantly, the characters "prattle on" about a great deal more than Ipods and TV. They prattle about their pasts, about aging, about their families, about love (most of all), about the world around them and where it was and where it's going and where they fit and mostly don't fit. In other words, they prattle on about things much more universal than electronic fads.
Rick Barthelme's writing is spot-on, as usual, and his eye for detail is razor-sharp. WAVELAND made this reader's heart ache for the characters, it made my heart soar during the moments when they brushed away enough weeds to find a glimmer of something lovely here and there, and it made me laugh out loud. Those are my "big three" requirement for a piece of fiction, and WAVELAND delivers.
Vaughn is a guy of nearly fifty. He's living in a post-Katrina coastal town with a somewhat rough-around-the-edges gal named Greta, who was once a suspect in the murder of her abusive ne'er-do-well husband. They have a housemate, Eddie, a one-armed Gulf War veteran who's a bit on the edgy crackpot side. Vaughn used to be an architect; now he's not much of anything. Since his divorce, he's been drifting through middle age into oblivion. His flaky ex-wife gets herself into some trouble and asks Vaughn to move back in with her until she gets herself straightened out. He can bring along Greta and even Eddie. That gives you some idea of how flaky she is. That Vaughn, Greta, and Eddie accept this absurd offer gives you some idea of the sort of quirky, eccentric, never-to-be met-in-real-life characters they are, too.
Anyway, this damaged and dysfunctional "family" attempt to come to peace with themselves, each other, the world, and the whole big messy enchilada of life. It's all a bit preposterous in a Seinfeldian way but this is fiction, after all, and, like most things, if you don't look at it too closely and pick everything apart, it makes sense in an exaggerated way.
Barthelme has a distinctive style--rather stark, staccato, elliptical.Read more ›
Vaughn Williams and his new girlfriend Greta live in a neighborhood that's been leveled. Their house survives the storm as does the house Vaughn's ex-wife Gail occupies. Little else in Vaughn's life has definition, however. His wife asks him to leave but later wants him to move back. He likes his girlfriend but feels love is an emotion he's moved beyond at his age. He watches television and expects little. He and Greta live with Eddie, a wise but lost soul, who is supposed to live in the garage but spends most of the time in the main house. They all exist like so much else post-Katrina, in a state of suspended animation.
Despite Vaughn's vocation, he's no longer compelled to create, which would seem the natural thing when living in a neighborhood of downed houses. But the desertion is profound. Everything contributes to a dull and uninteresting hollowness that presents certain challenges to the reader. Persist, if you can.
Most of the book is taken up with the struggles of the aimless. At Thanksgiving, Vaughn summarizes, a bit too well, the feeling: "When you're a person of a certain age everything changes and the world ... which used to be attractive, possibly charming at times, turns out to be a sewage hole of immense proportion, unimaginable proportion, overrun with dimwits.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Barthelme has long crafted the very best stories and novels, and his most recent is no exception. Word for word, line by line, this book cuts.Published on September 14, 2011 by Mark Twain
What a cast of characters: Gail a ditsy gal of the times, Vaughn her ex whom she has asked to leave after twenty years, Greta his new amour, who may or may not have shot her... Read morePublished on September 5, 2010 by M. D. Edwards
"Waveland" is a modest novel, yet its protagonist grapples with the meaning of life, and the nature of love and family bonds. Vaughn is likable and has a fine sense of ethics. Read morePublished on June 29, 2010 by algo41
One of the blurbs on the back cover says "one the surface, nothing terribly significant appears to happen." This refers to different book, but the same can be said. Read morePublished on September 7, 2009 by Alex Scorpio
Other reviewers have already noted the key character descriptions and plot elements, so I won't spend time on those in this review. Read morePublished on September 1, 2009 by T. V. OBrien