Elroy Nights by Frederick Barthelme

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Frederick Barthelme

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Frederick Barthelme, an American writer in the minimalist tradition, depicts in his writings loneliness, isolation, and fear of intimacy in modern life. Born in 1943 in Houston, Texas, Barthelme attended Tulane University and the University of Houston before studying at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts from 1965-66. He worked as an architectural draftsman, assistant to the director of New York City's Kornblee Gallery, and creative director for advertising firms in Houston during the 1960s and early 1970s. At the same time, his art was featured in such galleries as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Barthelme's fiction often concentrates on scenes rather than plots. They frequently include "snapshots" of popular culture, such as shopping malls and McDonald's restaurants, to illustrate the emotional shallowness of the late twentieth century. Characters who show their feelings and thoughts through actions rather than language are another aspect of Barthelme's work. Barthelme began to write fiction in the 1960s, leading to a change in the direction of his life and art. He earned an M.A. in English from Johns Hopkins University in 1977, then became an English professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and the editor of the Mississippi Review. Barthelme's work includes the novels Two Against One (1988), Natural Selection (1993), and Bob the Gambler (1997), the short story collections Rangoon (1970) and Chroma (1987), and the screenplays Second Marriage (1985) and Tracer (1986). Barthelme is the brother of the well-known experimental writer Donald Barthelme (1931-1989).
 
Published January 1, 2003 by Counterpoint. 224 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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His regrets at not having taken his sexual opportunities may have something to do with the decision he and his wife Clare make at story’s opening to “get some space into the marriage, some room to maneuver.” Elroy takes an apartment with a view of the water—and finds himself involved with student...

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Publishers Weekly

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When Winter brings home Freddie, a free spirit of a girl who will be Elroy's student in the coming term, Elroy is instantly smitten.

Oct 13 2003 | Read Full Review of Elroy Nights

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