Fiction Frederick Barthelme Waveland

ISBN 13: 9780385527293

Waveland

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9780385527293: Waveland

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on Mississippi's Gulf Coast, mostly retired architect Vaughn Williams, who is beset by the routine but no less troubling difficulties of late midlife, is doing what he can to remain, as he says, “viable.” He scans the channels, reads newspapers and blogs online, Googles practically everything, teaches an occasional class at the local junior college, and worries perhaps overmuch about his late father.
When his ex-wife, Gail, is assaulted by her hot-tempered new boyfriend, she asks him and his landlady/girlfriend, Greta, to move in with her. Perhaps a little too cavalierly, they agree, and complications distinctly Barthelme-esque follow, including manly confrontations with the perp, lamentations of his father’s life and death, casual moonlight drives, gambling for money, adults playing with trains, and the eventual untimely arrival of Vaughn’s annoyingly successful younger brother, followed closely by Vaughn’s ex-wife’s invitation to remarry.
The tattered landscape of the post-hurricane Gulf Coast is the perfect analogue for these catastrophically out-of-order lives, and in this setting the players work into and out of almost all their troubles. In the process, and en route to a satisfying set of resolutions, Barthelme’s acute eye and subtle wit uncover and autopsy an inner landscape of mortality, love, regret, and redemption. The result is his most emotionally resonant work of fiction yet—and a new reason to celebrate him as an American master.

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About the Author:

FREDERICK BARTHELME is the author of twelve books of fiction, the most recent of which, Elroy Nights, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and a New York Times Notable Book. He directs the writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi and edits the Mississippi Review.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
A year after Katrina swept across the Mississippi Gulf Coast and destroyed everything in or near its path, Vaughn Williams was spending a quiet fall afternoon with the television, waiting for his new girlfriend, Greta Del Mar, to get home from work. It was raining and out the window of Greta's bungalow, where he'd been living for the last two months, he could still see the devastation of the landscape--everything was gone, vanished, flattened. Three houses on this block of Mary Magdalene Street survived, a few others spotted the landscape here and there, but the rest were leveled. Waveland looked like one of those unpopulated atolls in the Pacific people were always doing TV specials about. Bombing range stuff. By now, a year after the storm, there were a few trailers up on concrete blocks, some tents hooked onto pickups, but that was it. He and Greta were like shipwreck victims washed up on some -blown--out shore. Vaughn was ten years older than Greta, both of them split from their spouses--he by divorce, she by the still-unsolved killing of her husband, Bo, a half-decade before. He'd been shot in the head in his sleep. Their marriage hadn't been pretty, stuffed with Bo's infidelities, abuse, ridicule, and embarrassment, but worse was the aftermath, when Greta was indicted for the crime. She was exonerated, of course, and the charges were dismissed; but too much damage was already done.

Vaughn was padding around the house in gray-bottomed athletic socks that slid a little with each step on the hardwood floor, a floor where dust could be seen when hit at just the right angle by sunlight slanting in the double-hung windows of the place, which was not quite arts and crafts (more like Sears & Roebuck), but still attractive, charming, a soft place to land if you had to land somewhere. Vaughn had needed just such a place after his wife, Gail, invited him to gather his things and go. "Why don't you just move along," she had said one day a month after Katrina, giving him the most dismissive flick of the wrist, as if the gesture itself, less pronounced than the shooing of a fly, said all that needed saying about him, about her, and about them, after twenty years of marriage.

Since that time he'd done little work of any kind, holed up in a couple of dinky apartments, stayed to himself a good deal, bought a trombone, then a drum kit--a modern one, all rubber pads and pickups, wired directly into an amplifier and from there into a set of very fine headphones. He tried going to bars, restaurants, clubs--wherever there were other people--but that hadn't worked so well. Finally, in summer, he met Greta at an Escaped Women's Slave Narratives lecture at the Gulfport College for the Demented (not its real name) where he sometimes taught a course in architectural appreciation, architecture having been his lifelong interest, not to mention occupation, not to mention downfall.

He had just moved from the wooden chair at the small table where the laptop computer sat to the sofa across from the old-fashioned "big screen" TV, a rear-projection unit of about fifty inches inches he reckoned, though he'd never measured, when the phone rang. It was his ex-wife, Gail, calling.

"Your dangerous girlfriend is in the newspaper," she said. "It's the anniversary of her notorious moment and they're revisiting the case. She's prominently featured--a wedding photo, a court photo, the infamous bracelet."

"You always have such good news," Vaughn said.

"I didn't pick her," Gail said. "Is she there? Can you talk?"

"I can always talk. And no, she's not here."

"The photo doesn't look much like her. That's a plus. I mean, she won't be recognized from it. I wouldn't recognize her. But the story is crazy. Jesus."

"I explained the story already," he said.

"Yeah, but you left out the gory details. It's totally ick."

"It is, but it had nothing to do with her. The guy was a creep. He had creepy friends. He got shot one night. They tried to get her for it and couldn't come up with anything."

"I know," Gail said. "The newspaper carefully says, 'Investigators found insufficient evidence to link Mrs. Del Mar to the crime.' Still, I mean, who ever knows about this kind of thing?"

"Gail?" he said. "State your business."

"Okay. Sorry. It's just nervous-making, you know? People you run into and all that. So forget I mentioned it. What I was calling about was your birthday. I was thinking maybe we could have dinner. You know--celebrate."

"This is only the third time you've called in a year," Vaughn said.

"I am aware of that, Vaughn."

"Last time was when the grinder pump in the sewage lift station went."

"I know. I'm sorry. But we really should celebrate your birthday," she said.

His birthday was a couple of weeks away, but she wanted to set up the dinner sooner, in the next few days, because she was thinking she might be out of town later. She said, "We ought to carry on at least one tradition from our marriage, which failed so abruptly."

"I remember that," he said.

"C'mon," she said. "It'll be fun."

It wasn't something he wanted to do. He was thinking that once you get through with people, you really don't want to get involved with them again.

"It might be kind of awkward," he said. "You know, Greta and everything."

"I'm fine with that," she said. "I won't say a word about anything. It'll be good to see you again. I think about you a lot these days."

"You do?" he said, thinking how dumb that sounded, how What? Me Worry?, wondering why he couldn't at least fake something appropriate.

"I'm taking you guys to the Palomino," she said. "You been there?"

"We saw a TV show about it," he said. "It's the new place in the Beau Rivage, right?"

"It's nice," Gail said. "I mean it's garish and stupid, but as nice as, you know, garish and stupid gets."

The Beau Rivage was the first casino to reopen after the storm. It had escaped pretty much unharmed, and the rebuild was quick and easy. A year after Katrina most of the casinos were still shut up tight.

"How about eight-thirty?" Gail said. "Monday? Oh, and have you heard from Newton?"

Newton was Vaughn's brother, and Vaughn had not heard from him. He never heard from Newton. They didn't get along that well, which she knew. Gail had dated Newton before she and Vaughn started seeing each other. That's how they met, through Newton. Then they got married and she didn't talk about Newton, even when Vaughn asked.

"I haven't heard a peep out of him," Vaughn said. "I guess he's still succeeding a mile a minute up in the Great Northwest."

"Oops," she said. "I forgot. Things are no better, huh?"

"Same as ever," he said.

"I never forget your voice, you know? I mean, calling today you sound just like you. It's great. You know how people sound different when you haven't talked to them in a long time? Not you, Vaughn."

"Good to know," he said.

"So, Monday?"

"We'll be there," he said, and then, when he heard her disconnect, he replaced the receiver and lifted his hands to heaven.
Vaughn flipped over to a cooking channel and stared at the food on the big screen of Greta's big TV. They'd been together since mid-summer and he had started to think of her as his first girlfriend since the marriage. She had this difficult past. The dead husband shot in her bed--a single shot to the head, twenty-two caliber. She inherited a good deal of money. No one was ever tried and the case remained unsolved. She'd shown Vaughn the newspaper clippings from the time of the murder. There were plenty of clippings. It was a big deal in the coast newspapers then, but she was matter-of-fact about it now. How she came home, how she found him, how she felt seeing him dead. What it was like being the prime suspect, the target of endless police interviews, the topic of idiot newspaper stories that got almost everything wrong. Later she sold the house, moved west along the Gulf Coast, set herself up in the bungalow in Bay St. Louis that she'd gotten through her family. The odd part was that she missed the husband, Bo, even though he was a rat of a guy.

Vaughn and Greta were starting slow. He was older, not in such a rush, and she was pretty in a beat-up way, kind of a casualty. Their romance did not scorch the sheets, but they had a good time together. They were calm, they were quiet, they went easy, which freed them from many imperatives.

The rain had gotten louder. It was splattering against the windows, great swaths of water coursing down the glass in pretty ways. The sandwich on TV was the size of a wheelbarrow. It was bright and smeary. He got a fresh Coke from the kitchen, then settled in at the computer and started Googling things--"Del Mar murder" pulled up a few things, then "sex crimes" produced three million hits, including one that offered to "map sex offenders in my local area" and "find registered sexual predators in our free national registry." Then he tried "Macao" because it was in a movie they'd seen recently, and after that he read something about Leonardo DiCaprio, then looked up the Palomino, found the menu online. The baked potato was thirteen-fifty.

He and Gail had split up a couple of months after Katrina, and ever since he'd been trying to be friendly to everybody, across the board, because it made him feel better. He didn't know why, it just hit him that way. He had known the marriage was gone before it went, but actually splitting up gave him this whole new appreciation of things. He wanted to be easygoing and relaxed. He didn't want to feel so apart from people. That had been okay when he and Gail were together, but not after. And when Gail asked him to leave, he realized how important it was going to be to be nice. He had a hard time with her resolve, the sense he had that it really was done between them, there was no going back, no cooling off, no changing of minds, none of the usual ways out of hard moments. She was done and it was clear. There were n...

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Book Description Doubleday Books, United States, 2009. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on Mississippi s Gulf Coast, mostly retired architect Vaughn Williams, who is beset by the routine but no less troubling difficulties of late midlife, is doing what he can to remain, as he says, Âviable. He scans the channels, reads newspapers and blogs online, Googles practically everything, teaches an occasional class at the local junior college, and worries perhaps overmuch about his late father. When his ex-wife, Gail, is assaulted by her hot-tempered new boyfriend, she asks him and his landlady/girlfriend, Greta, to move in with her. Perhaps a little too cavalierly, they agree, and complications distinctly Barthelme-esque follow, including manly confrontations with the perp, lamentations of his fatherÂs life and death, casual moonlight drives, gambling for money, adults playing with trains, and the eventual untimely arrival of VaughnÂs annoyingly successful younger brother, followed closely by VaughnÂs ex-wifeÂs invitation to remarry. The tattered landscape of the post-hurricane Gulf Coast is the perfect analogue for these catastrophically out-of-order lives, and in this setting the players work into and out of almost all their troubles. In the process, and en route to a satisfying set of resolutions, BarthelmeÂs acute eye and subtle wit uncover and autopsy an inner landscape of mortality, love, regret, and redemption. The result is his most emotionally resonant work of fiction yetÂand a new reason to celebrate him as an American master. Bookseller Inventory # FLT9780385527293

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Book Description Doubleday Books, United States, 2009. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on Mississippi s Gulf Coast, mostly retired architect Vaughn Williams, who is beset by the routine but no less troubling difficulties of late midlife, is doing what he can to remain, as he says, Âviable. He scans the channels, reads newspapers and blogs online, Googles practically everything, teaches an occasional class at the local junior college, and worries perhaps overmuch about his late father. When his ex-wife, Gail, is assaulted by her hot-tempered new boyfriend, she asks him and his landlady/girlfriend, Greta, to move in with her. Perhaps a little too cavalierly, they agree, and complications distinctly Barthelme-esque follow, including manly confrontations with the perp, lamentations of his fatherÂs life and death, casual moonlight drives, gambling for money, adults playing with trains, and the eventual untimely arrival of VaughnÂs annoyingly successful younger brother, followed closely by VaughnÂs ex-wifeÂs invitation to remarry. The tattered landscape of the post-hurricane Gulf Coast is the perfect analogue for these catastrophically out-of-order lives, and in this setting the players work into and out of almost all their troubles. In the process, and en route to a satisfying set of resolutions, BarthelmeÂs acute eye and subtle wit uncover and autopsy an inner landscape of mortality, love, regret, and redemption. The result is his most emotionally resonant work of fiction yetÂand a new reason to celebrate him as an American master. Bookseller Inventory # FLT9780385527293

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