Darlington's Fall by Brad Leithauser

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The hero of this one-of-a-kind novel is Russel Darlington, a born naturalist and an unlikely romantic hero. We meet him in the year 1895—a seven-year-old boy first glimpsed chasing a frog through an Indiana swamp. And we follow this idealistic, appealing man for nearly forty years: into college and over the Rockies in pursuit of a new species of butterfly; through a clumsy courtship and into a struggling marriage; across the Pacific, where on a tiny, rainy island he suffers a nightmarish accident; through the deaths of friends and family and into a seemingly hopeless passion for an unapproachable young woman.

Darlington’s Fall is ultimately a love story. It is written in verse that—vivid, accessible, and lush—imparts an intensity to the story and its luminous gallery of characters: Russel’s rich, taciturn, up-right, guilt-driven father; Miss Kraus, his formidable housekeeper; Ernst Schrock, his maddening, gluttonous mentor; and Pauline Beaudette, the beautiful, ill-starred girl who becomes his wife. Leithauser’s embracingly compassionate outlook invites us into their world—into a past so sharply realized it feels like the present.

In Darlington’s Fall, Brad Leithauser offers an ingeniously plotted story and the virtues long associated with his elegant stanzas: wit, music, and a keen eye for the natural world. His independent careers as novelist and poet come together brilliantly here, producing something rare and wonderful in the landscape of contemporary American writing: a book that bends borders, a happy marriage of poetry and fiction.

About Brad Leithauser

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BRAD LEITHAUSER is the author of five collections of poetry, six novels, a novel in verse, two collections of light verse, and a book of essays. Among the many awards and honors he has received are a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Grant, and a MacArthur Fellowship. He served for a year as Time magazine's theater critic. In 2005, Leithauser was inducted into the Order of the Falcon by the president of Iceland for his writings about Nordic literature. He is a professor in the writing seminars at Johns Hopkins University and divides his time between Baltimore, Maryland, and Amherst, Massachusetts.

Author Residence: Amherst, MA and Baltimore, MD

Author Hometown: Detroit
Published November 21, 2012 by Knopf. 336 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Darlington's Fall

Kirkus Reviews

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Darlington immerses himself in his work, setting off on a long expedition to study butterflies on the tiny Pacific island of Malaya, where he nearly dies after falling from a cliff.

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Publishers Weekly

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Leithauser leads us up to the 1930s, when Russ, alone and debilitated, proposes to his maid, and then, in a long coda, he combines Russ's dream on the night before his second marriage with Leithauser's own journey to Ponape.

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Entertainment Weekly

As haphazard rhythms and workaday rhymes advance the straight and narrow narrative — in one stanza, Leithauser gives Darlington's wife a perfume/bloom and a lips/fingertips — we get glimpses of an exotic bug that never quite wriggles out of its cocoon.

Apr 12 2002 | Read Full Review of Darlington's Fall

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