- Hardcover: 354 pages
- Publisher: Middle Finger Press (July 19, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0972658831
- ISBN-13: 978-0972658836
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #614,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Neon Palm of Madame Melancon Hardcover – July 19, 2017
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"The Vonnegut is strong in this one: Will Clarke's The Neon Palm of Madam Melançon is at once bitterly funny and entirely earnest in what it relates to us about family, New Orleans, and this poor, wrecked planet of ours." - Owen King, author of Double Feature and co-author of Sleeping Beauties
Duke Melançon grew up in New Orleans, at the corner of Magazine and Napoleon, in a fancy, inherited house that his wild Cajun family has practically destroyed. His father married a Russian fortuneteller, known as Madame Melançon, and they had seven sons and one girl. The youngest son, Duke, is a corporate lawyer in the External Affairs Department for oil giant Mandala Worldwide. During an accident on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico, 50 workers died, and oil is pouring into the Gulf. The company transfers Duke and his wife and kids to New Orleans to deal with the fallout, and Duke learns of a family crisis "when their witchy mother runs out into the hot, syrupy night, chasing a calico cat." Madame Melançon doesn't come home, and the family launches a search effort while Duke's new home is invaded by a gaze of raccoons. As Duke's wife and kids flee the craziness for Houston, Duke searches for answers about his mother from colorful locals, including a Kurt Vonnegut-like homeless guy and a shady villain. An elusive necklace of gold coins may hold the key to Madame's location as Duke tries to stay afloat with his career and his marriage. Clarke's riotous, amusing novel parallels real events, namely the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which does help ground a story that moves toward a moderately supernatural conclusion. The Melançons' stomping ground, the boisterous streets of New Orleans, is described in raucous and earthy details, a perpetual morning-after that juxtaposes inebriated tourists and battered locals. The family crisis is as pressing as the oil disaster. It's all very entertaining but also raises consequential questions about whether money can solve a moral crisis.
A bizarrely soulful ride through New Orleans with corporate high jinks and some mystical, unseen forces adding to the experience.
About the Author
WILL CLARKE grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana and holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. He is the author of several works of fiction including, Lord Vishnu's Love Handle: A Spy Novel (sort of) and The Worthy: A Ghost's Story. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and family.
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The Neon Palm of Madame Melançon
Middle Finger Press
Hardcover, 978-0-9726-5883-6 (also available as an e-book); 354 pgs., $29.99
July 19, 2017
“There are no coincidences, only the chess moves of an unseen hand.”
Duke Melançon left New Orleans for Houston (“a world that wasn’t ruled by tarot cards and Aleister Crowley’s incantations”) as soon as he could, embarrassed by his family, especially his mother, the titular Madame Melançon, queen of “Nawlins” fortune-tellers, adviser to politicians and the mob, among others. Duke is a corporate attorney for Mandala Worldwide, an oil company whose Sub-Ocean Brightside well has just exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing dozens of workers and spilling millions of barrels of crude into the waters off Louisiana. Duke returns to New Orleans to rescue Mandala’s reputation and revenue, but when he gets there he must also deal with another urgent catastrophe: Madame Melançon has chased a calico cat (“basically text messages sent from the devil”) out of her kitchen with a broom, running down the street after the bad omen, and disappeared without a trace.
The Neon Palm of Madame Melançon is the new novel from Dallas’s Will Clarke, whom Rolling Stone has dubbed a “hot pop prophet.” This book is published by Middle Finger Press (“hand-crafted fiction written for titans of industry, Bilderbergs, and oligarchs”), a Dunning-Kruger Company. In psychology, the Dunning-Kruger effect is “a cognitive bias wherein persons of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is.” Seriously, to get the full sublime effect go to www.middlefinger.press.
Duke’s first-person narration is fast-paced and wholly entertaining. The seventh son of a seventh son, he is a cynical nonbeliever in his mother’s powers. As clues are uncovered in a sort of demented scavenger hunt, and a preponderance of the evidence shows that it may be Duke’s fated responsibility to save the world from the soulless future of the Great Unseen Hand, a crisis of conscience forces him to reconsider his career, his choice of employer, his feelings about his family, and whether he can count himself a good person.
Clarke reminds me of Thomas Pynchon. His colorful characters include a Kurt Vonnegut impersonator (or is he?); a Loup Garou (or is he?); Duke’s uncle, a pot-smoking priest called “Uncle Father”; and Duke’s sister LaLa, who dresses as successful celebrities (Pink, Annie Lennox), hoping to trick the fates into bestowing the luck of the rich and famous upon her. Clarke is equally skilled at sweet family scenes with Duke and his wife and little boys, and slapstick scenes involving a plague of raccoons. Dialogue is smart and engaging, with a Cajun accent.
There are footnotes, doodles, and chapter titles such as “Turn to Page 5 of Dracula!” and “Cab Smells Like SpaghettiOs and Febreze.” Clarke is having a very good time, but he’s also very serious about climate change and the environmental future of the only home we have. In the words of maybe-Vonnegut: “Wake up, you moron! The planet is dying as we speak. Whatever made you think that money was worth this? You can’t breathe it you know!”
The Neon Palm of Madame Melançon is a smart, ultimately hopeful mystery of science and magical realism, a loving evocation of “all this broken beauty” of New Orleans, and a riotous, rollicking ride with a message. One person’s witch is another person’s scientist. And vice versa.
Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.