Fiction Alison Lurie The Last Resort

ISBN 13: 9780701167134

The Last Resort

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9780701167134: The Last Resort

Placed in Florida's Key West, this novel from Alison Lurie features Jenny, the devoted wife of a famous naturalist. Worried by his depressed state, Jenny encourages him to take a much-needed break. The author won the Pulitzer Prize with her novel The Truth about Lorin Jones.

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Review:

The Last Resort finds Alison Lurie in top, trenchant form following a 10-year hiatus from fiction. "Without sex and death," the author wrote in Don't Tell the Grown-Ups, "humans may become as angels." Suffice it to say that the term angelic suits none of her newest cast, all of whom come up against life's realities during one Key West winter. Lurie's singular ensemble is spearheaded by the much younger wife of famed naturalist and writer Wilkie Walker, who is convinced that the world is "going to hell in a nonbiodegradable plastic handbasket." When the loving, supportive Jenny suggests they repair from New England to Florida, she hopes that he'll at last be able to finish his book and, more importantly, that his erratic behavior will come to an end. Of course, she has no goal for herself, since she's spent all her adult life as custodian to the aging author and can envision no other existence. Fortunately, a chance encounter with the owner of the successful women's guesthouse will eventually suggest a far more satisfying one.

For the irascible Wilkie, the trip turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Convinced that he's no longer in ecological vogue and certain that he's suffering from cancer, he's finally free to plan a tragic swimming accident. Alas, each of his attempts is foiled: once he can't get rid of a hanger-on, and another time someone else has the audacity to kill himself, thereby stealing his limelight. What's worse, the man was suffering from AIDS, and Wilkie certainly doesn't want that sort of information to sully his own obit. The Last Resort is a hilarious--and merciless--look at social and sexual desire and literary reputation. Jenny is well aware, for example, "that to refuse to look at a writer's work is always a deadly insult," whether the writer is her husband or an ex-beatnik poet. As one character reasonably remarks, "You don't have to be intellectually brilliant to be a famous American poet. It's a handicap, sometimes. Innocent egotism, good looks, romantic sensibility, a thrilling speaking voice, and a nice little lyric gift, that's what makes it with the reviewers and the public."

Lurie is always keen to prick any human vanity or fashionable ism--and does so exquisitely. In addition to its infinitely satisfying ironies and indelible characters, The Last Resort, though far from Arcadia, offers up a serious call for us to seize the "bright full present" while we can.

About the Author:

Alison Lurie (b. 1926) is a Pulitzer Prize–winning author of fiction and nonfiction. Born in Chicago and raised in White Plains, New York, she joined the English department at Cornell University in 1970, where she taught courses on children’s literature, among others. Her first novel, Love and Friendship (1962), is a story of romance and deception among the faculty of a snowbound New England college. It won favorable reviews and established her as a keen observer of love in academia. It was followed by the well-received The Nowhere City (1966) and The War Between the Tates (1974). In 1984, she published Foreign Affairs, her best-known novel, which traces the erotic entanglements of two American professors in England. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985. Her most recent novel is The Last Resort (1998). In addition to her novels, Lurie’s interest in children’s literature led to three collections of folk tales and two critical studies of the genre. Lurie officially retired from Cornell in 1998, but continues to teach and write. In 2012, she was awarded a two-year term as the official author of the state of New York. Lurie lives in Ithaca, New York, and is married to the writer Edward Hower. She has three grown sons and three grandchildren.

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