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James Lee Burke


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Ok, so I'm going to try this year to generate discussion about some books in this section. Since last year, I've been trying to read more new books--keep abreast, as it were, of whatever's going on out there. And that year, as with this, I started out with a Dave Robicheaux novel by James Lee Burke. Now, I know that other people on this board dig Burke--MLeary, for one, if I recall--so it seems sensible to have a thread on him.

For myself, I've now read three Burke novels: Crusader's Cross (2005), Robicheaux (2018), and now The New Iberia Blues (2019). I've got handfuls of the other novels both with me here and back home in Alabama and I plan--eventually--on getting around to reading them.

I'm going to go ahead and drop my reading journal entry (lightly edited) on The New Iberia Blues below:

 I’m not sure how I feel about this. Crusader’s Cross, which I read years ago, was really good (as I recalled); Robicheaux was a weird experience that I don’t remember much of, in part because I read it on a thirteen hour flight from China to the U.S. So this one—hmm. Ok, so there’s some stuff I really didn’t care for:

1.    Old men getting it on with young women, with their [the young women's] enthusiastic cajoling, is—I guess not unheard of, but it feels a lot like an older man’s fantasy (lots about these last two novels feel that way, including the fact that these sixty-or-seventy-year-old-men apparently have arms like cantaloupes and can take beatings that would kill men even a third their age. But, ok, that’s a generic thing).

2.    Characters who aren’t Dave or Clete (or Smiley, the halfpint assassin, I guess) are pretty opaque and inconsistent in the way they act. Everyone seems to be picking fights with Dave, including his adopted daughter. After all this time one would think she would know better.

3.    There’s a definite tinge of old-man-yells-at-cloud to all Dave’s talk about Hollywood and the New America, etc etc etc

Things I liked:

1.    I don’t think I appreciated it enough before, but Burke’s crime fiction really does hit that same spot that Hannibal, for instance, does in its interposing of quasi-supernatural events onto a crime narrative. It was stronger here than I remembered in the previous novel.

2.    The epilogue was really good. There’s a sense of trying to find some kind of happiness or solidarity in a world that is (in the case of the Louisiana coast, literally) falling apart, which seems very of-its-time.

3. Burke writes beautifully, of course.


So--thoughts, anyone? Any Burke aficionados? Has anyone else read the new book? 

Edited by NBooth
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I wish I could contribute to this discussion, but I haven't read Burke, so I'm hamstrung their. 

If your goal is to generate more traffic in the literature section, perhaps we could try to revive Book Club? (Don't know if that would fly given the time commitment of reading over viewing, but I am just brainstorming.)

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  • 2 months later...

Somehow I missed this earlier. I started reading Burke with his first Robicheaux mysteries in the 80s, maybe--The Neon Rain (1987) and Heaven's Prisoners (1987). The first was made into a terrible movie. The second is where Dave really starts taking shape as a character, I think. Burke improves and expands Dave's world for a while, but in most recent novels, is starting to repeat himself and rant a bit. The supernatural elements are most effective in 1993's In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead--which also has the best title ever. The Katrina novel (Tin Roof Blowdown) is also worth reading.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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