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John Dufresne is the author of six novels, including No Regrets, Coyote. Among other honors, he has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a professor in the MFA program at Florida International University. He lives in Dania Beach, Florida.
For Billy Wayne Fontana, guilt is as natural ``as gravity,'' but he hopes to end the curse on his genetically tainted clan by adopting priestly celibacy. Unfortunately, hearing a young woman's confession propels him into an impulsive marriage and sparks a new series of tragic events. The narrative meanders lazily, digresses into anecdotes about earlier unfortunate Fontanas, and then leaps forward with startling revelations. In this first novel, the author of a critically acclaimed story collection (The Way That Water Enters Stone, Norton, 1991) distills high comedy from intense pain, philosophical insight from bayou murkiness. Dufresne enlarges his comedy by using the Monroe Library Great Books discussion group as a perceptive but highly eccentric community chorus and by offering a delightfully acerbic satire of Louisiana politics (``kakistocracy,'' or ``government by the worst'') as backdrop. Highly recommended for popular and literary collections alike.-Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
This first novel by the author of a well-received story collection, The Way That Water Enters Stone , is a wacky Southern Gothic set in small-town Louisiana. Billy Wayne Fontana is the sole survivor of his oddball line of marginal folk, legendary in this backwater for being the most-often-executed and sickest white family in the Delta; and when he acquires a priestly vocation it seems likely he will be the last Fontana. While confessing young Earlene deBastrop, however, he is smitten and marries her; unfaithfulness with Tami Lynne follows, then--miraculously--a second marriage and the birth of two boys, one with a rocky heart, the other a cripple. How perplexed Billy Wayne, intending always the best but fatally impulsive, brings disaster upon himself and his little family is the center of the tale, but it is filled out with a host of ribald walk-on characters: George Dinwaddie, Pakistani exile owner of the Palms Motel and would-be assassin; Vietnam vet Angelo Candella, whose route to the statehouse in Baton Rouge is as a vegetable in a wheelchair; and Dencil Currence, who aspires to be Mr. Reddy Kilowatt for the power company. The narrative is oddly schizophrenic, alternating abruptly between farce and elegy, with some peculiar authorial interpolations (``So where are we?'' ``Now that we've got up a moderate head of narrative steam,'' etc.). And Dufresne cannot seem to escape an unfortunate edge of condescension toward his characters from time to time. It is a skillful, often lively performance, but one that leaves a disconcerting aftertaste. (July)