"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Monday, July 31, 2017

Review #7: Lookaway, Lookaway, by Wilton Barnhardt

This was a weird book. I mean, a lot of so-called Southern literature is weird - that's why I love it so - but even by those standards, this was a weird book. 

Jerene Jarivs Johnston is old money Charlotte. Jerene's brother is the stereotypical boozy washed up novelist, found most afternoons at the bar at the club sipping his bourbon neat, her sister Dillard is a near shut-in, and her husband Duke is a failed politician, his career having been derailed by Jerene herself when she uncovered Duke's propensity for bedding younger women. Her children are equally a mess: Bo is a minister who isn't sure he believes, Annie is the perpetually single eldest daughter, Joshua is the closeted gay son with a fetish for bad boy thugs, and Jerilyn, the last and only hope, who reluctantly married her high school sweetheart and then shot him one night after dinner.

That cast of characters is ripe for a juicy peach of a Southern Gothic story, but I found myself losing interest often. Boss gets mad when I say this because he says that I shouldn't have to like the characters to like the book, but I disagree. You have to like at least someone in the story, or else, what's the point? Who do you root for? This is my problem with Gillian Flynn, too. All of her characters are just such awful people that I can't be bothered to care about their journeys. And the same can be said of Lookaway, Lookaway. I honestly didn't care about any of them.

I think Jerene was supposed to be one of those old Southern society ladies, the ones who are born in to their privilege and understand that it's a thorny crown. They despair that the old ways are disappearing and that Kids These Days can't be bothered. I think we were supposed to feel sympathy for her. But I couldn't get over the fact that everyone appeared to be a caricature of their characters. From the white privileged gay southern son who is so closeted he can only be turned on by black gang member thugs to the old maid daughter who is too smart for any man to love her, from the drunken failed author always dressed in seersucker to the dottering husband who loves to play dress up in Confederate clothes, the characters felt amateur and oblivious. 

The Amazon synopsis tells me that this was a Krikus Review Best Book of 2013, but it reads as though it was written in the early 90s, and I don't remember what else came out in 2013, but if this was one of the best, I'm not sure I want to read what else was written that year.

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