Beautiful Soul: An American Elegy

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9780923389581: Beautiful Soul: An American Elegy

Fiction. Ruth, a bored and frustrated young mother in the Chicago suburbs, is haunted by the letters she receives from her own mother, who has been dead for several years. Ruth hires Lamb, whose investigation traces the letters to Europe and ultimately to Gustave, who tells the story of his equivocal love affair with a beautiful American girl during the student rebellion in Paris in 1968. But this girl is less carefree than she seems; she is an American haunted by her own half-lit memories of the unnarratable horrors of European history, and she may turn out to be Ruth's mother, if not Ruth's second self.
Beautiful Soul: An American Elegy is a darkly glamorous existential noir in the late modernist tradition of José Saramago, W.G. Sebald, Italo Calvino, and Roberto Bolaño. Written in gorgeous and elliptical prose, this electric first novel is a love story, a ghost story, and a psychological thriller about the enigma of American innocence, the fatality of storytelling, and the precarious destiny of reading itself.
Joshua Corey is the author of four collections of poetry, including The Barons (Omnidawn Publishing, 2014) and the editor, with G.C. Waldrep, of The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta Press, 2012). He lives in Evanston, Illinois and is an associate professor of English at Lake Forest College.

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This powerful novel, which pays out its rewards gradually, carefully, but also crisply, dare I say electrically, may be Joshua Corey's first, but it feels exactly like the highly satisfying product of the fully formed imagination that birthed it. All of Corey's hard-earned skill as a poet is put here to useful work. The push-pull between stunning language and inventive narrative is pure pleasure. 
Laird Hunt 

Joshua Corey's Beautiful Soul offers a swirling, shadowy cosmos lit by intelligence, urgency, and heart. Its swirl is cinematic--"estranged and operatic"--but never at the expense of the body, be it the bitten nipple, or the "bloody middle" of history. I especially admire Corey's conjuring of Ruth: fulcrum of readerly empathy, inheritor of mysterious and difficult histories, navigator of the present's strata, honorary "new reader." Go on her journey with her; "the book is waiting." 
Maggie Nelson 

All the beauty of the world is in the flow of each living person's narrative, from moment to moment, and the way these stories also encompass the ghosts of the past--this is the angle of incidence Joshua Corey is attempting to recreate in a novel as precisely defined as the images in a mirror and as diffuse as the colors and shadings in a prism. Beautiful Soul, with its ever-shifting parameters, from periphery to center and back again, is a testament to the infinite longing for something or someone who isn't there, the last word on a world where everything matters. 
Lewis Warsh

About the Author:

Joshua Corey is the author of four books of poetry: The Barons (Omnidawn Publishing, 2014), Severance Songs (Tupelo Press, 2011), Fourier Series (Spineless Books, 2005), and Selah (Barrow Street Press, 2003). He lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife and daughter and is an associate professor of English at Lake Forest College. Beautiful Soul: An American Elegy is his first novel.

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