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Mississippi Books and Writers

May 1999

Note: Prices listed below reflect the publisher's suggested list price. They are subject to change without notice.

Where the Sea Used to Be

A Novel by Rick Bass

Houghton Mifflin (Paperback, $14.00, ISBN: 0395957818)

Publication date: May 1999

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

In sensuous descriptive prose whose incantatory rhythms invite comparison with both Lawrence and Faulkner, Bass tells a take of familial, sexual, and in a way, fraternal conflict among four uneasily related characters who are, simultaneously, denizens, preservers, and destroyers of Montana’s north country near the Canadian border. Old Dudley is a veteran oil driller who sends Wallis, a young geologist in his employ, to that wilderness to seek oil. It’s an expression of Dudley’s power, as is well known by his 40ish daughter Mel, a schoolteacher and naturalist who “follows” the lives of wolves, and by Wallis’s predecessor (and Mel’s former lover) Matthew—and as will be learned by Wallis, a young Texan still mourning the deaths of his loved ones. Though the wary relationship of Wallis and Mel (his host, and mentor in this strange new world) is delineated with great skill, and though the story of their slowly developing closeness is punctuated by vividly rendered episodes (digging a limousine out of the snow, observing a summer drought and an ensuing forest fire), the story is essentially an extended meditation on the prickly, necessary interrelationship of man and the natural world. Variety is provided by a handful of lively townspeople (reminiscent of TV’s Northern Exposure) and by lengthy excerpts from old Dudley’s notebooks (as Wallis reads them), which comprise an almost mystical interpretation of how the earth’s physical features were formed (“It’s kind of like the Bible,” Dudley explains). But one reads this novel for such descriptive passages as this: “Flaming trees and burning snags and limbs...falling like swords with whiffs of sound like the cutting of paper with sharp scissors.”

The story’s drama builds not through action per se, but from the intensity of its characters’ observations of themselves and of the exterior world that nutures, tests, and reshapes them. Read it slowly, and it won’t let go of you.

The Oxygen Man

A Novel by Steve Yarbrough

MacMurray & Beck Communication (Hardcover, ISBN: 1878448854)

Publication date: May 1999

Description:

Steve Yarbrough’s first novel, The Oxygen Man, has already earned high praise. James Lee Burke said, “…The Oxygen Man is a stunning novelistic debut…. Yarbrough is a major talent….”

A Pirate Looks at Fifty

Nonfiction by Jimmy Buffett

Fawcett Books (Paperback, $7.99, ISBN: 0449223345)

Publication date: May 1999

Description from Publishers Weekly:

The breezy pop craftsman of “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” famously spends most of his time sailing, trotting out 1970s chestnuts on the summer tour circuit—and writing. Buffett’s bestselling Tales from Margaritaville (1989) and Where Is Joe Merchant? (1992), among other books, created a world of sun-baked characters whose doings bore some resemblance to those of their author. This memoir draws back the curtain between fact and fiction, and genially takes stock in a manner likely to appeal to the Me generation. Though he rambles, repeats himself and may even raise hackles (“I have been too warped by Catholicism not to be cynical”), Buffett is earnest and unapologetic in his hedonism, seeing his mock pirate’s life as the antithesis of the conformity foisted on him as a child in Alabama. In a series of loosely chronological vignettes, Buffett quickly takes us from his bar-band beginnings to a brush with death when he crashes one of his fleet of seaplanes. A lower-latitude voyage with his family (in a newer, bigger plane) to celebrate his 50th birthday makes up the bulk of the book, and takes them from Florida to the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Colombia and the Amazon. The diaristic logbook that Buffett keeps along the way provides endless opportunities to muse on the music business; his older, wilder ways; navigation and, on the horizon, approaching mortality. Buffett’s prose won't itself win him more “parrotheads” (as his fans are called), but those with enough patience or reverence to wade through long descriptions of beloved gear, favorite books or “fucking tikki pukki drinks” will find beneath these amblings a disarmingly direct character. Simultaneous audio, CD and large-print edition; author tour.

—Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.



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