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Elysian Fields Paperback – October 2, 2013
From the Back Cover
What happens when the bonds of family devotion threaten to strangle a son's artistic ambition?
New Orleans, 1999. Simpson Weems is a 36-year-old aspiring poet whose life has been on hold--to the breaking point. All he needs to fulfill his potential is to move to San Francisco, but he's torn between his long-held dream of being a great artist and obligations to his ailing mother and his emotionally volatile brother, the all-demanding Bartholomew. Will someone in his family have to die before he can get to California? And how might that be arranged?
About the Author
Louisiana native Mark LaFlaur grew up in the South, mostly in Louisiana. He earned a master of fine arts degree at Louisiana State University, where he worked on the literary magazine Exquisite Corpse. His writings have been published in the Village Voice, Los Angeles Times Book Review, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Boston Review, and about a hundred articles have appeared in encyclopedias and trade books published by Macmillan, Oxford University Press, etc. He has worked in book publishing in New York and San Francisco and as a freelance writer and editor in New Orleans, where he wrote Elysian Fields. He moved to New York in 2001. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 he founded Levees Not War, a New York-based, New Orleans-dedicated blog focusing on infrastructure, the environment, and progressive politics. He and his wife, Janet, live in Kew Gardens, New York, where he is at work on a new novel.
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Top customer reviews
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The characters are alive & real, punctuated by occasional dark humor, despite some of them living in the past. New Orleans today is rich with immigrants from other cities; so one doesn't often encounter such old-school types unless one has lived there for a long time, but they are there - and Jesus too (as the character Bartholomew Weems testifies). "Chir-actors," as Dr. John would say.
All of that aside, this is a story well-told (set before catastrophic hurricanes Katrina & Rita)- with even more dunces than 'A Confederacy of Dunces.' And yet, a message of hope for the future comes in its resolution.
The non-linear time-frame exposition is perfect for a play or screenplay. So when does the movie-version & the next novel come out? Can't wait.
Delicious, nutritious, even slightly pernicious!
This book is a masterpiece, a term not to be dispensed blithely. Laugh-out-loud comedy in characterization, dialogue, and situation. Barto creates quite a stir when during his reluctant job search he trips over a footstool and falls into a bookshelf at the public library, causing multiple stacks to fall into each other like so many dominoes, toppling thousands of volumes onto the floor. Buzz, a long-time friend of the boys’ mother Melba, “was plump like Melba, but despite all her years at the bakery, she wasn’t as far gone as some of her customers, the ones who always had to have ‘two a dem and gimme six a doze.’”
While there are farcical elements—and some fantastic ones, too—this book is also a penetrating meditation on the difficulty of living the life of the mind, and the manner in which one comes to know oneself and gain wisdom only by slow accretion of life experiences. An artistic introvert, Simpson was bullied in high school, and frustrated thereafter by self-criticism as he struggled as a poet. In trying to write, Simpson “scratched out lines, and over time became a ruthlessly efficient self-cancellation machine that rejected as unworthy each little idea and would not accept a rough draft.” Ah, to write such a sentence. This is what you experience in reading LaFlaur—a keen intellect, a skilled wordsmith, and an author who speaks directly to you. Beyond all of this, you find near-Proustian sensory evocations of moods and remembrances through place description, and characters one might find in The Confederacy of Dunces, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and the novels of Dickens, Doig, and Haruf.
This is a novel to read—not to read about. Please do.
One of my pet peeves is misspelling, poor grammar or misused words-it sometimes causes me to lose track of the plot. It seems to happen a lot lately, but NOT ON THIS BOOK! The editors did a great job making the book as excellent as Mark did making it outstanding!
The most encouraging part may be the last line in "About the Author". It says Mark is working on a new novel...bring it on!