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Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel Paperback – June 24, 2014
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Dixieland was never so dishy nor dysfunctional as in Barnhardt’s ribald send-up of the conflagration that ensues when Old South tradition confronts New South tackiness. Set in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, this tale of the venerable Johnston family and the early twenty-first-century dissolution of its fortune is filtered through the eyes of each of its malcontent members. There’s matriarch, Jerene, daughter of an abusive father and abused mother, who rules her own roost with a “steel magnolia” resolve. A college-football legend and Civil War scion, her husband, Duke, unemployed lo these 20 years, lives off his residuals and reputation. Their children—morbidly obese real-estate mogul Annie, sorority slut Jerilyn, mousey minister Bo, and closeted gay sales clerk Josh—help fuel the scandals and deplete the funds that force the Johnstons to turn to Jerene’s fabulously wealthy, but scandalously heartless, dipsomaniac brother, Gaston, a writer of southern gothic Civil War bodice rippers. From abortion to alcoholism, bankruptcy to bacchanalia, Barnhardt’s satirical scorching of southern culture comes in second only to Sherman’s fiery march. --Carol Haggas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Lacerating but affectionate, as exuberant as it is shrewd, Lookaway, Lookaway is a Southern novel so sure-footed the only real question for Barnhardt is, "What took you so long?"…By the end I felt like a starving man at a buffet--sated but still hungry. That's not really a knock. Lookaway, Lookaway is that rare thing: an excellent long novel that's not long enough.” ―Malcolm Jones, The New York Times Book Review
“It is a work that hides its craft but never its beauty, that is ambitious but never pretentious, that does not sacrifice nuance for power or power for nuance. The book's careful, formal composition is invisible as you read, and it's a beautiful read, sad and savagely funny, one place inexplicably contained in the other.” ―Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books
“A dishier array of secrets animates Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt's big, enveloping novel about a status-conscious North Carolina family.” ―Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Scathing yet touching, this is a delicious saga of Old South meets New, a story of America lurching toward the future.” ―People Magazine
“A delicious romp with a dysfunctional Southern Family.” ―The Chicago Tribune
“Barnhardt's fourth novel is a revelation: witty, savage and bighearted all at once, it is the Southern novel for the 21st century.” ―Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Dixieland was never so dishy nor dysfunctional as in Barnhardt's ribald send-up of the conflagration that ensues when Old South tradition confronts New South tackiness…Barnhardt's satirical scorching of southern culture comes in second only to Sherman's fiery march.” ―Booklist Review
“North Carolina native Barnhardt's frothy, satirical latest (after Show World) is Southern gothic at its most decadent and dysfunctional.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Barnhardt bursts forth with a big book that has everyone bustling.” ―Library Journal
“An effervescent novel.” ―BookPage Review
“One helluva barn burner.” ―Elle Magazine
“Sprawling, generous, delightful...I didn't want it to end. Lookaway is both dishy and literary, but like all good novels, there's a nourishing quality as well.” ―The Charlotte Observer
“Barnhardt delivers a knowing, wry and delightfully catty satire...there's more than a little Tom Wolfe here, with a dash of family feuding, Pat Conroy-style...As with the best satire, though, there's a strong vein of affection.” ―Star News Wilmington
“Lookaway, Lookaway is a wild romp through the South, and therefore the history of our nation, written by an absolute ringmaster of fiction. Wilton Barnhardt is back baby, and he's coming at you with everything he's got. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!” ―Alice Sebold, New York Times bestselling author of The Lovely Bones
“Move over, Tom Wolfe! There's a new guy in town with the ultimate--no, make that penultimate--take on the New South. Better take a powder, pour a big gin, and put your feet up before you start reading. Writing with brilliance and brio, Wilton Barnhardt has penned a hilarious satire which often has surprising depth and hits way too close to the truth.” ―Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Oral History and The Last Girls
“This is a raucous novel, bursting with noise and color, immensely and immediately entertaining. And yet it's impossible not to realize how very, very smart it is. Wilton Barnhardt is a masterful storyteller, and Lookaway, Lookaway is high comedy at its brilliant best.” ―Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints
“Wilton Barnhardt has written the big Southern novel I've been wanting to read all my life. I can't think of a book that better expresses the complexity of exactly where our Southern culture is right now. His insights into his characters - both male and female - are rich and genuinely hilarious, expressed with a dangerous level of humor and pain. Lookaway, Lookaway is entirely remarkable. I finished reading it and started again on page one to see how he did it. (I still don't know.)” ―Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama and Georgia Bottoms
“Wilton Barnhardt's Lookaway, Lookaway is our best 21st Century update so far of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. This literary romp is a new South vision with a ferocious vengeance, a heady stew of debutantes, Internet dating, Confederate War reenactors, real estate scandals, and Garden & Gun mores. Wicked family secrets are stirred in with antebellum lore and the Obama-era politics of race, gender and sex, all showing us, truly and newly, a Global Dixie.” ―Randall Kenan, author of The Fire This Time, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, and A Visitation of Spirits
“A fresh and innovative take on the traditional family saga...the new Barnhardt goes down smooth and delivers with a kick.” ―Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
“Lookaway, Lookaway is an often humorous, sometimes unsettling, ultimately poignant romp through a "New" South still reluctant to let go of its past. Barnhardt's novel earns a place on the bookshelf between J.K. Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons.” ―Ron Rash, author of Serena
Top customer reviews
If you're looking for satire about society types featuring dead-on characters and situations, look no further. I completely understand the one-star reviews, because no one wants to believe this is the state of the world and these people exist. But it is the state of the world and these people do exist. I know Jerene Johnston. She's my cousin. I know strident know-it-all Annies. I know Bo (I'm married to him and I've been Kate at several rural congregations exactly as described here - except I keep my mouth shut). And two of my daughters went to Chapel Hill and yep, that's accurate too. I know. It's sad. I was at the Mint Museum a month ago. Accurate accurate accurate about the people, the collections, the rooms, the event with much fakery and self-congratulation. I've been to Sons of Confederate Veterans meetings. Accurate!
I'm alright with people not liking the treatment of Charlotte and the characters' nastiness, but don't say this book isn't well written. It is and if you like skewering satire that's only slightly exaggerated, this is for you.
The story involves a family of some importance and tradition in Charlotte, having perhaps lived out the heyday of that status: certainly the world their status represents has changed out from under them. The arc of the story is told through separate chapters or sections each devoted to one of the major members of the extended family. Through these various characters' points of view the bigger picture gradually unfolds, revealing... well, lots of interesting twists and turns that keep the reader's attention. The characters and their relationships to each other and the facts behind those relationships unfold into a fascinating version of American life.
Beyond the story as such, the writing is fun. It's funny, erudite, and compelling, with a biting edge, (all as I would expect from Barnhardt). It's not all light; there is darkness behind many of the characters and their stories. But overall it's a fine novel (and about time, given the delay since the last one).