Elroy Nights

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Elroy and his wife, Clare, elect to try living separately, a choice characteristic of their relationship-fond, thoughtful, generous to a fault, and more than a little cracked. So Elroy leases a high-rise beach condo, begins hanging out with his twenty-something students, and experiences a splendid re-enchantment with the world. With his trademark precision and pitch-perfect dialogue, Barthelme elegantly lays open this interweaving of twenty-year olds with their fifty-something fellow traveler. The result is a ...
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Overview

Elroy and his wife, Clare, elect to try living separately, a choice characteristic of their relationship-fond, thoughtful, generous to a fault, and more than a little cracked. So Elroy leases a high-rise beach condo, begins hanging out with his twenty-something students, and experiences a splendid re-enchantment with the world. With his trademark precision and pitch-perfect dialogue, Barthelme elegantly lays open this interweaving of twenty-year olds with their fifty-something fellow traveler. The result is a lovely, lilting romance, and a spare yet generous masterpiece from a writer at the top of his form.

Author Biography: Frederick Barthelme is the author of twelve books of fiction, and the co-author with his brother, Steven, of the memoir Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss. He directs the writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi and edits the literary journal Mississippi Review.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Barthelme's world is vague and unclear. Conversations dead-end, spousal jabs go unanswered, Elroy and Freddie's relationship never evolves into anything defined. Still, currents of hope run through Elroy Nights. Elroy and Clare's relationship contains remarkable moments of kindness -- not in showy grand scenes but in small gestures, in bitten tongues, in the silent lowering of expectations. — Bruce Barcott
Publishers Weekly
This slight story of midlife crisis and fantasy romance follows Barthelme's familiar path along the southern Gulf Coast. Elroy Nights is a 50-something art professor at a small, third-rate Mississippi university. Amicably separated from his wife, Clare, he fills his otherwise solitary life with occasional visits or dinner at Clare's when her grown daughter Winter is there. 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. But the affair into which they casually fall leads to tragedy for their friends and near disaster for them. As Elroy ambles along, attempting to rediscover his youth by hanging out with his students, drinking and smoking again, taking impromptu road trips and listening to collegiate wisdom, he narrates his adventures, such as they are, but remains little more than a hazy collection of half-formed impressions. None of the other characters ever quite emerges as three-dimensional, either. The story is too precious and whimsical by half; no events-be they deaths, shootings or divorce talks-leave much of a mark. Through it all, Elroy observes and questions ("I thought it would be great to be inside somebody else's head for a while, to hear the noise in there," he thinks about Freddie), striving halfheartedly to regain his bearings. Barthelme's 13th work of fiction-with its slight romance and unexceptional protagonist-may disappoint fans of his earlier work. Regional author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
For his ninth novel, Barthelme remains in the suburban New South, covering familiar territory. A middle-aged professor-the eponymous Elroy-moves out (sort of) from the house he shared with his wife of 15 years to find himself in the spareness and solitude of a condo in a complex called Windswept. Elroy narrates his marital ambivalence, sexual reawakening, and experiences as a teacher and parent in a confiding, expository, and almost documentary style that suits the banality of his midlife reflections (e.g., "Turns out kids are resilient" and "Perhaps being married is just a better way of being alone"). He spends his nights partying with his twentysomething art students in and around Biloxi, MS. Apart from Elroy's awkward trysts with his stepdaughter's 22-year-old friend (a girl named Freddie), only two salient events occur in about 200 pages, both sudden and violent. Underdeveloped characters and unconvincing dialog make this an optional selection for larger collections of contemporary Southern fiction. [Frederick Barthelme is the brother of the late Donald Barthelme, an influential experimental fiction writer.-Ed.]-Mark Andr Singer, Mechanics' Inst. Lib., San Francisco Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582431284
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 9/23/2003
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 4, 2009

    Disappointing

    This book had no point, no denouement, no ANYTHING of any substance. I was very disappointed. Barthelme is a professor of writing, so I expected it to be decent. However, he just used the story to slam marriage and propogate his fantasy of college professors having sex with all of their attractive female students. The only thing remotely appropriate in this book was that it had a slow rambling pace, which is something you would expect for a story set in the deep south. I would recommend getting this one at the library if you really want to read it. I got it in the $3.99 bargain bin and it wasn't even worth that!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2003

    it's good

    Among the thousand other pleasures of this book is Barthelme's increasing willingness to let his characters reflect out loud, and in conversation with each other. In the early stories so much was under the surface--and what a lovely surface it was--but there's a forthcomingness added, here. It's becoming clear that F Barthelme's contribution is like nothing else in American fiction.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2003

    Brilliant and beautiful

    Barthelme is a quiet master, hidden from the lights of the more vapid literati. This novel is his finest, better even than the breathtaking 'Natural Selection' and the quirky and delicious 'Painted Desert.' It's the tight, precise, hearthbreaking language throughout this that sets it apart from anything else released in the past few years. Critics will likely note that Barthelme is trading on some of the same themes as past work - even as far back as the seminal story collection 'Moon Deluxe' - but the level of maturity and grace in ELROY NIGHTS outstrips anything else this graceful and important writer has accomplished in a storied career. The book's language shimmers, like a magically wrought poem. I can't imagine a better novel, or a better read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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