|A generous and intimate new novel--the first in six years--from American literature's premier chronicler of middle-class angst in the new South. |
In Elroy Nights, Frederick Barthelme does a fresh turn on territory he's made his own over the last two decades: a middle-class America studded with characters maybe a little more wised-up than not--cautious, skeptical, private folks who would rather joke about their problems than complain about them.
Elroy Nights is a reasonably successful artist and professor, fifty-something, who is caught between the midlife crisis of his forties and the much anticipated sublime decay of his sixties. Elroy and his wife Clare, perhaps too comfortable with each other, elect to try living separately, a choice characteristic of their relationship--fond and thoughtful, responsive, generous to a fault.
So Elroy moves out, leases a condo, begins hanging out with his twenty-something students, and experiences a splendid reenchantment with the world. But when an unforeseen tragedy throws his, and everyone's, foibles and failures into high relief, he's confronted with reordering, retracking--and reimagining--a world gone suddenly haywire. With his trademark precision and pitch-perfect dialogue, Barthelme elegantly lays open this interweaving of twenty-year-olds with their fifty-something fellow traveler, exploring the relationships that develop in a delicate display of the sweetness of privacy and the privilege of intimacy. The result is a lovely, lilting romance, a spare yet generous masterpiece from a writer at the top of his form.