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Goodnight, Texas Paperback – October 4, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Goodnight by the Sea, Tex. (not to be confused with Goodnight in the Plains, 600 miles away), is a dying gulf coast town where global warming and international trade have made the once-reliable vocation of shrimping unprofitable. Alligators run amok while the West Nile virus picks off the elderly. When Russian restaurant owner Gusef learns a gigantic and thought-to-be-extinct zebra fish has beached itself nearby (replete with a dead horse in its belly), he dispatches his good-natured juvenile delinquent fry cook Falk to photograph it. As Gusef concocts schemes to capitalize on the dead fish, a hurricane brews in the gulf, portending possible doom for the town. The characters aren't particularly unique, but Cobb manages to breathe tragicomic life into them: Una, Falk's co-worker who wants more than Goodnight has to offer; Falk's adolescent cousin Leesha, who falls for Una's ex-boyfriend, Gabriel, the drunken bad boy turned driver's-ed instructor who in turn has it in for Falk. Though Cobb (The Fire Eaters) sometimes strives too hard for colloquial legitimacy ("nowadays you'd be lucky to catch a gafftop catfish a pound"), he expertly exploits the claustrophobic and incestuous atmosphere of smalltown Texas. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Almost as if out of a dream, an enormous, zebra-striped fish the size of a Volkswagen washes up on the shore of the little fishing town of Goodnight, Texas. Even stranger still, there is a small horse stuck in its giant maw. The locals are intrigued, especially Falk, a teenage expellee who wears his heart decidedly on his shirtsleeve, and Gusef, who wants to stuff and mount the giant fish above his little gumbo-serving cafe. Una, a waitress at the cafe, has had it up to (her very diminutive) here with her alcoholic, quick-to-rage boyfriend, Gabriel, and falls immediately into the willing arms of Falk. As the giant fish finally makes its way onto the top of the cafe, a devastating hurricane threatens the already down-and-out inhabitants of the little town. Cobb, who focuses more on atmospherics than plotting, lets the relationships between his characters swirl and ebb without attempting to assert too much, but in so doing leaves much unresolved. Vivid yet gracefully understated at times, he paints in broad swatches that look great from afar but up close reveal some distinct, though promising, flaws. Ian Chipman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
Russian restaurateur Gusef learns that an alleged extinct zebra fish has landed on the nearby beach with a dead horse inside its stomach. He wants to use the fish as bait to bring in some new customers. He sends his fry cook Falk to at least photograph the gigantic corpse while he works on ways to make money off the caucus before the hurricane that is coming blows it back out to sea at a time when Gabriel plans to harm his teenage rival.
Readers will appreciate this look at a dying small Texas town with no future as events well beyond their control have destroyed their livelihood, aspirations, and future. The characters are a solid cast who make for a fine ensemble look at no tomorrow (except for the hustling Gusef) at least here with the hurricane symbolizing the end. Fans of strong character studies will want to visit GOODNIGHT, TEXAS where denial battles reality as hope is abandoned there.
Peopled with extreme characters, Goodnight is a catchall for the hopeless, the discontented and a handful of terminal optimists, like the Russian owner of the Black Tooth Café, Gusef. Inside the Café, a small drama unfolds, a flirtation-cum-romance between Falk Powell, a seventeen-year-old high school dropout and Una, a Vietnamese-Hispanic beauty a few years older: "One can imagine she must have broken many hearts, men turned to fish and left to swim sadly beneath the pier lights, hoping to catch a glimpse of her." Until recently, Una was in an unsatisfying relationship with Gabriel Perez, a newly-unemployed fisherman with a bad temper, a predilection for drunkenness and an urge for revenge against those he believes have wronged him. Then there are the crusty old salts who have seen everything, café habitués who render judgment on a daily basis with the wink of an eye.
Throw in a few wealthy tourists to rub salt in the depressed-economic wound, dead mammals poisoned by their natural habitat and a hurricane on the horizon and the recipe for disaster is complete. But for this odd collection of eccentrics, misfortune comes bearing gifts, opportunities for change and growth that were impossible until nature's devastation becomes an object of national obsession, the "forgotten America", bringing flocks of sightseers and rebuilding funds. The writing surpasses the plot, the author's prose a vivid rendering of a Gulf Coast in decline, but still suffused with nature's beauty; unfortunately, the story fails to stimulate the imagination as much as the images. Still, Cobb has written of a slice of humanity, a ribald collection of individuals who coexist by virtue of their tolerance, generosity and affection for one another, their broken dreams redeemed by the spirit of survival. Luan Gaines/2006.