The Next Step in the Dance: A Novel [NOOK Book]


Bringing the same light and gentle understanding that he did to the story collection Same Place, Same Things, author Tim Gautreaux tells the tale of Paul and Colette, star-crossed and factious lovers struggling to make it in rural south Louisiana. When Colette, fed up with small town life, perceives yet another indiscretion by the fun-loving Paul, she heads for Los Angeles, with big dreams and Paul in tow. Paul's attempts to draw his beautiful young wife back home to the Cajun bayou, and back to his heart, make ...

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The Next Step in the Dance: A Novel

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Bringing the same light and gentle understanding that he did to the story collection Same Place, Same Things, author Tim Gautreaux tells the tale of Paul and Colette, star-crossed and factious lovers struggling to make it in rural south Louisiana. When Colette, fed up with small town life, perceives yet another indiscretion by the fun-loving Paul, she heads for Los Angeles, with big dreams and Paul in tow. Paul's attempts to draw his beautiful young wife back home to the Cajun bayou, and back to his heart, make up a tale filled with warmth, devotion and majestically constructed scenes of Southern life.

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Editorial Reviews

Andy Solomon
What...wins us over is Gautreaux's powerful, often poetic mix of colorful detail and rapid-paced suspense, not to mention his keen ear for Cajun dialect. -- New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
An entertaining and immensely likable debut novel, set mostly in Louisiana's southwestern Gulf Stream area, from the talented Gautreaux (stories: Same Place, Same Things, 1996). When beautiful and brainy Colette Jeansomme marries good- looking Paul Thibodeaux (who's also a terrific dancer and the best damn mechanic in the pair's hometown of Tiger Island), their friends are sure it's the perfect match. But Colette tires of her unfulfilling bank teller's job and can't tolerate Paul's enthusiastic participation in the cult of Saturday night fistfighting or his habit of dancing (and, she suspects, enjoying further intimacies) with other womennot to mention his perfect satisfaction with his job ("He has no ambition," she complains. "Fifty years from now he'll still be knee-deep in machine oil"). Threatening divorce, Colette flees to California, followed soon afterward by the contrite yet still feisty Paul. More complications in their stormy relationship, coupled with the inability of each to adapt to West Coast work- and life-styles, send them separately back to Tiger Island and a succession of crises (including Colette's encounter with a cottonmouth moccasin and Paul's perilous adventures both with an overheated boiler and a shrimp boat caught in a storm) that end with the two back where we know they've belonged from the beginning: together, whether they drive each other crazy or not. Though it's more than a little overplotted, Gautreaux's pitch-perfect account of the Thibodeauxes' bumpy road to love is powered by abundant energy and charm and by a townful of vividly rendered supporting characters (Paul's laconic reality instructors, his father and grandfather, lead a memorableparade of locals). And the story is set in a workingman's world that's fully, credibly, and (to the nonmechanical reader) sometimes even confusingly detailed. As a storyteller, and especially as one with such a good eye for character, Gautreaux looks like one of the best writers to have emerged in the 1990s. A fine first novel. (Author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466833920
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 1/15/1999
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 433,439
  • File size: 399 KB

Meet the Author

Tim Gautreaux teaches English at Southeastern Louisiana University. His work has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, GQ, Story, Best American Short Stories, and New Stories from the South. He is the author of the story collection Same Place, Same Things.

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Reading Group Guide

From the author of the acclaimed story collection Same Place, Same Things comes a novel filled with a rare and affecting sense of tradition and possibility. Paul Thibodeaux is a handsome young man married to Colette, the most beautiful woman in the small Louisiana town where they grew up. For Paul, life is complete: a wife he loves, machines to repair, and a lively local dance hall. But Colette wants more, and when she sets off for California in search of something better, Paul follows her there and back, waiting to see if she'll change her mind about him and their life together.

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.

Discussion Questions:
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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 28, 2012

    Highly recommended.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2011

    More than a love story

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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