Tupelo Nights

John Ed Bradley, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $0 (239p) ISBN 978-0-87113-175-1
The unfortunately named John Girlie is a former college-football star who gives up a promising professional career to hang around his small Louisiana hometown, look after his mother and become involved with a woman considerably older than himself who is in perpetual mourning for her dead baby; he is also the only friend of an agonized young man who is the town's star gravedigger. Girlie's brother Sam goes off to college and changes his name (and who can blame him?). Girlie has a tainted past: his grandfather, a crooked politician, killed himself, and one day his father simply left and was never seen again. In the choices he makes, Girlie seems determined not to run away from anything, but in the end he too is forced to flee. These are the bare bones of this mournful first novel by a young Southern writer who has already made something of a name as a sportswriter, and taken by themselves they make it sound utterly lugubrious. There are redeeming virtues, however. Bradley has created some powerful scenes, particularly those between Girlie and his almost demented mother; his love scenes are strongly sensual; his evocation of the town of Old Field in all seasons is haunting; and he is skillful in abruptly shifting moods within scenes to avoid monotony. The problems with the book are essentially those of youth: an overwhelming and unearned weltschmertz, a slightly self-conscious style (nearly all the chapters end with a rhetorical flourish) and a liking for melodramatic gestures. But there's no denying that Bradley is a writer of power and promise. (April)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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