The New Austerities

Tito Perdue, Author Peachtree Publishers $20 (218p) ISBN 978-1-56145-086-2
Bored, 50-ish Wall Street insurance man Leland Pefley, nicknamed Lee, is a lover of Mahler and Wagner, a compulsive stealer of library books, a connoisseur of ancient Greece and a gun-toting, hard-drinking paranoiac. Protagonist of Perdue's debut novel Lee (1981), which portrayed him as a septuagenarian, misanthropic Lee, in this edgy prequel, hates big cities, career women, television, pop music and other signs of decadent Western civilization. With his charmingly eccentric wife Judy, Lee flees New York for his native Alabama. Their adventures en route involve a farmers' wedding in the woods and a mystic automobile repairman who recounts near-death experiences. Moving into a decrepit old house that he inherited, Lee attends a family reunion and learns to sympathize with ordinary people, though he is dismayed by a New South full of video stores and group-therapy workshops. At bottom a reactionary snob, Lee voices a howl of protest against regimented and standardized modern existence, sentiments with which discriminating readers may find themselves in accord. His relentlessly bleak vision is never lugubrious, however, due to Perdue's magically evocative descriptive powers, pungent wit and iconoclastic point of view. Those who read Lee will find this look at the hero's earlier life especially poignant. (May)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
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