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John Delano is in trouble. A professor of Cold War Studies at a small New England college, hetraffics in what others call "History McNuggets" -- gimmicky, easily digestible glimpses of our collective past. But as he struggles with his magnum opus -- a major new book on the "surfaces" of the Cold War era -- Delano's life begins to fall apart. In a series of dazzlingly rendered and escalating encounters, he revisits the treeless vistas of 1950s suburbia, the streets of Dallas and the JFK assassination, the Summer of Love, and other landmark moments, and finally travels into the heartland to reconnect with his estranged brother. What he finds there, and what he makes of it, forms this novel's poignant climax.
Bob Dylan has said that Tom Piazza's "stories pulsate with nervous electrical tension -- reveal the emotions that we can't define." Now, in a breakout novel of power, subtlety, and range, Piazza braids together the inner and outer life of our times, in a story that will leave readers both shaken and exhilarated.
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Tom Piazza is the author of the novels City of Refuge and My Cold War, the post-Katrina manifesto Why New Orleans Matters, the essay collection Devil Sent the Rain, and many other works. He was a principal writer for the HBO drama series Treme and the winner of a Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues: A Musical Journey. He lives in New Orleans.From Publishers Weekly:
This richly textured but uneven first novel by Piazza (Blues and Trouble) opens with John Delano, a Connecticut college professor of Cold War Studies, trying, unsuccessfully, to pen John Delano's Cold War, an unorthodox opus that looks at events as "pure phenomena." Analyzing surface and image (instead of "boring history stuff," as a former student puts it) has earned John popularity in the classroom, but some disdain in the faculty lounge for his "History McNuggets." When his father, from whom he was estranged, dies, John's concentration fails him; instead of writing, he recollects his turbulent childhood: his father's steady decline into mental illness, his mother's struggles and love affairs, the growing despondency of his brother, Chris. John narrates his youth with spot-on 1960s details-Johnny Carson hosting Don Rickles, the Summer of Love, the pot fumes-and poignant personal memories, from meeting his wife, Val, at a labor conference, to the pain of his mother's death. Struggling to free himself from writer's "limbo," John calls Chris, to whom he has not spoken in years, proposing to visit him in Iowa; he imagines that he will scrap his Cold War book and instead write a memoir about their reunion. Their time together is awkward, poignant-and might have been the start of a renewed relationship. But John's discovery that Chris is involved in a racist group sparks another conflict, and John's subsequent decision to visit the house he grew up in provides the novel's heartbreaking final pages. The academic play of the novel's opening feels flat in comparison to the powerful longing at its end, but this is an incisive portrait of a man, his troubled family and their place in history.
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