Fields of Asphodel

Tito Perdue, Author . Overlook $24 (252p) ISBN 978-1-58567-871-6

T his highly stylized take on the afterlife is the latest installment in Perdue's chronicle of Leland “Lee” Pefley, the cantankerous Alabaman (following The Sweet-Scented Manuscript ). This time out, Lee wakes up from his death in an unpredictable landscape that bears a faint resemblance to his native Alabama, except the sun seems paperlike, seasons don't work the way they should, and it's very cold. Though he's dead, Lee is still 73, still afflicted by hemorrhoids and still a pedant and a misanthrope. Lee has landed with a band of egotists, so they don't like him much either. He longs for and goes in search of his wife, Judy, who predeceased him and who, in Lee's untrustworthy eyes, is a paragon of femininity: modest, supportive, aware of her place. Lee is something like an erudite version of Beckett's Watt or Malone, but lacks the post-WWII context and the lyricism that gives those characters their historical dimension. Perdue has more in common with the poet Ed Dorn, who went after America using some of its highest and lowest forms (booksellers, the rich and “male feminists” come in for razzing), but while there are some very funny scenes and arresting lines, the book comes across more like Stanley Elkin's jokey The Living End than its great modernist predecessors. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2007
Release date: 08/01/2007
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