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How they come to realize the importance of home and marriage makes for a novel that is at once an adventure, a love story, and a moving portrait of a place and a culture rarely explored in contemporary fiction. Tim Gautreaux writes with wit, compassion, and a sharp eye for the details that make us who we are, wherever we are.
1. Does the intense use of regional details limit the universality of the novel?
2. For what reasons does Paul not give up on his wife when many other men would have walked away?
3. Does Colette dislike her husband as much as she thinks she does?
4. What is the thematic function of the Larousse twins?
5. What part does religion play in the action of this novel?
6. Which characters do you feel alien to in the beginning that you warm up to toward the end?
7. What does each main character give up by the end of the novel? What do they get in return?
8. Explain the metaphor of dancing as it relates to the novel as a whole.
Tim Gautreux, in his own words:
Why the recurring motif of machinery?
I collect antique machinery, so I relate to that. Part of it is genetic: My father was a tugboat captain, and my grandfather was a steamboat engineer. My great-uncle was a master mechanic. Machinery has a particular metaphorical function, and sometimes I'm working with it a little bit obviously, but most of the time it's subconcious. My wife says I write fiction as an excuse to write about machinery.
Many of your characters are pathetic but funny at the same time.
This is what a writer is always looking for: That situation that blends humor and pathos evenly. And you've got to hit it just right, because if you miss it, it's hokey and sentimental -- both of which are just awful things to do to a reader.
Do you consider yourself a Southern writer?
I don't know if the term has much meaning. The more I think about it, the less I understand it. After The Shipping News, would you call Annie Proulx a Newfoundland writer? Would you call Sherwood Anderson a Midwestern writer? Ultimately I consider the term "Southern writer" to be pretty empty. I'm just a writer who lives in the south. The only real tradition in which I'm operating would be that of the frontier humorists. When I was a kid, what I read most of all was things like folktales -- stories in which men sat around and told obvious lies. I grew up listening to a lot of old men tell stories to each other about their jobs.
Dialogue in your books rings so true. How do you approach it?
There is still a rich creative metaphorical magic alive, and it's in the mouths of uneducated people. Educated people tend to speak a standard English which is not creative and which is not conducive to storytelling or any verbal color at all. People who are uneducated basically have to make up an idiom as they go along. These are the people I like to listen to, because they're very acrobatic with the way they use the language.
What advice do you give to your creative writing students?
A writer has a duty to get in touch with his culture, whatever that culture is. My students will say, well, I was basically a mall rat; what can I write about? I say, that's your culture. If you choose to be interested in the culture that God has given you, it's just as exotic as living in Istanbul. Everything is exotic -- that's my view about life.
(Excerpted with permission from New Orleans Magazine)
About the Author:
Tim Gautreaux was born in southern Louisiana, where he still lives. A professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University for 27 years, he has won a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a National Magazine Award. His stories have appeared in Harper's, GQ, Atlantic Monthly, as well as the anthologies New Stories from the South, A Few Thousand Words About Love, and The Best American Short Stories.
Posted April 28, 2012
Great plot, engaging characterers. Geatreaux's writing reminds me of another favorite author, John Updike. He should be marketed nationally. Featured in the new writers of interest section.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 2, 2011
I really enjoyed this book and its characters. Interesting reading about another culture, but it sometimes went on too much about the technical details and mechanics that only a man would find necessary to describe and that I as a woman often had no idea what he was talking about, so found myself skimming over the descriptions of these workings. But all in all a very enjoyable book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 27, 2010
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