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In his sixth novel, Leithauser has realized a double feat of imagination: a loving historical portrait of a now-vanished Detroit in its heyday, and a keen and affectionate rendering of a young artist, Bianca Paradiso.
In his first collection since the widely acclaimedDarlington's Fall, Brad Leithauser takes the reader on a bracing poetic journey. Curves and Anglesbegins in a warm, soft, populated world (these are the curves of the human body, as well as the elliptical pathways of human motivation), and it concludes in a cooler, sharper, more private place--the less-giving angles of an inanimate universe. The first section, "Curves," introduces us to a couple of passionate young lovers, indoors in the city on a rainy afternoon; to a vociferous cluster of children playing on a Midwestern summer evening; to a godlike scuba diver, "all long gold limbs and a restless halo of long gold hair. " In a pair of long poems, two aging men--one a science-fiction writer of the 1950s, the other a traveler in an airport bar--confront their mortality. "Angles" guides us to a rarely opened north-looking attic room, made brilliant by a nearby maple in full fall orange; to a sunny Louisiana kitchen, where two bowls--one brimming with semiprecious stones, one filled with seashells--are locked in an eternal silent beauty contest; to a frozen Icelandic lake; and to a narrow unmarked entryway that possibly leads to our "true and unbounded kingdom. " Curves and Angleswanders from the balmy waters of the South Pacific to the crystalline wastes of the Arctic, unified throughout by an embracing love of the natural world in all its inexhaustible variety--whether lush or spare, peopled or solitary, curved or angled. It's a journey made unforgettable by these wise and exuberant poems.
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.
This moving and resourceful novel by one of our most acclaimed writers opens with a newspaper obituary. The deceased is Wesley Sultan, a respectable, unexceptional, civic-minded midwestern businessman. But the novel's first sentence hints of mysterious revelations to come: "There are at least a dozen errors here." Step by step, the book's narrator--himself mysterious--sets about correcting the errors, investigating the deceptive but appealing Wesley Sultan by way of the lives he touched and often manipulated: his wives, his siblings, his girlfriends, his children. Each chapter reprints the obituary but each time with a new handwritten amendment--correction piling upon correction until the original has been effectively demolished. It seems that businessman Wesley--handsome, dapper, flirtatious, and ambitious--lived a far more tangled and ambiguous life than the one he presented to the world. A Few Corrections is both a psychological detective story and an epitaph for a vanishing figure--the gallant, sports-car-driving local Romeo who flourished in midcentury throughout small-town America. Written with humor and lyrical dash, it is also a compelling novel that explores its subject with wit and a flowering tenderness.
In this roomy, bawdy, exuberantly comic novel, Brad Leithauser takes us to an imaginary island-country, Freeland, during a crucial election year.Freeland occupies its own place in the North Atlantic, somewhere between Iceland and Greenland. A geological miracle, it is desolate ("What green is to Ireland, gray is to Freeland") -- and inspiring.The "friends" of the title are Hannibal, an expansive, lovable, unruly giant of a man who has been President of Freeland for twenty years, and Eggert, his shrewd, often prickly, always devious sidekick and adviser, who is Poet Laureate of Freeland and the book's narrator.As the book opens, Freeland -- long happily isolated and stubbornly independent -- is in trouble. The sins of the rest of the world have begun to wash up on its shores in the form of drugs, restless youth, and a polluted, fished-out ocean. And, to add to the complications, when Hannibal, who has promised to step down as president, decides to run again, the opposition imports three "electoral consultants" from the United States.As the story unfolds, the histories of the friends are revealed. While Hannibal is Fate's adored, Eggert travels perpetually under a cloud. Orphaned early, he must make his way by his wits. We follow him from his youth as he adventures Down Below (any place south of Freeland), collecting women, lovers, children, restlessly churning out fifty books in his search for love and admiration, returning home at last to raise a family and to serve his friend in his political hour of need.This huge, stunning, magical book brims with pleasures: delicious satire as the independent-minded natives meet the U.S.-trained "spin doctors"; a vibrant comic-strip vitality; and an edgy poignancy.Best of all, Leithauser has created a whole world, at once uncannily like and unlike our own. Readers who journey to Freeland will find it both a land of wonders and an ideal place from which to view the world they've left behind.From the Trade Paperback edition.
This spellbinding book will delight as it terrifies. Brad Leithauser, the noted poet and novelist, had excellence as his only criterion in assembling this collection of twenty-eight of the eeriest short stories in the English language. Included are the most intriguing works by the writers who have defined the genre over the years--Henry James, Oliver Onions, and M. R. James--as well as stories by other authors whose forays into the supernatural are less well known: V S. Pritchett, Muriel Spark, John Cheever, A. S. Byatt, Elizabeth Taylor, and Philip Graham among others. This surprising gathering of writers makes this collection a must-have for confirmed ghost-story fans as well as for those who simply love good writing. Brad Leithausers introduction redefines the genre, finding its origins in our fascination with the world beyond our senses. Whatever the stories' similarities, however, each creates its own unique atmosphere of uncanniness that is as hard to analyze as it is to resist. After all, it is "in their restless u ease, their dissatisfaction with the prova! as Leithauser writes, that the ghost storie bewitching power lies.
From one of our most universally admired poets: a generous selection from his five acclaimed books of poetry, and an outstanding group of new poems. From the outset, Brad Leithauser has displayed a venturesome taste for quirky patterns, innovative designs sprung loose from traditional forms. In The Oldest Word for Dawn, we encounter a sonnet in one-syllable lines ("Post-Coitum Tristesse"), a clanging rhyme-mad tribute to the music of Tin Pan Alley ("A Good List"), intricate buried rhyme schemes ("In Minako Wada's House"), autobiography spun through parodies of Frost and Keats and Omar Khayyám ("Two Summer Jobs"). In a new poem, "Earlier," the poet investigates a kind of paradox: What is the oldest word for dawn in any language? The pursuit ultimately descends into the roots of speech, the genesis of art. "Earlier" is part of a sequence devoted to prehistoric themes: the cave paintings of Altamira, the disappearance of the Neanderthals, the poet's journey with his teenage daughter to excavate a triceratops skeleton in Montana . . . The author of six novels as well, Leithauser not surprisingly brings to his verse a flair for compelling narrative: a fateful romantic encounter on a streetcar ("1944: Purple Heart"); the mesmerizing arrival of television in a quiet Detroit neighborhood ("Not Lunar Exactly"); two boys heedlessly, joyfully bidding permanent farewell to a beloved sister ("Emigrant's Story"). The Oldest Word for Dawn reveals Brad Leithauser as a poet of surpassing tenderness and exactitude, a poet whose work, at sixty, fulfills the promise noted by James Merrill on the publication of his first book: "The observations glisten, the feelings ring true. These poems by a young, unostentatious craftsman are made to something very like perfection. No one should overlook them."
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