Monday, January 12, 2009

Tito Perdue's FIELDS OF ASPHODEL Featured on "BookMark"

Don Noble, host of "BookMark" on Alabama Public Radio and professor at the University of Alabama, offers a thoughtful review of Tito Perdue's Fields of Asphodel: "Tito Perdue, retired on the family property in Brent has been writing for 25 years, with critical but not much popular success. At the end of Perdue's fourth volume of fiction, the protagonist, Leland "Lee" Pefley, dies at age 73. On the first page of Fields of Asphodel, Pefley, who always introduces himself as Pefley, the Alabama branch, wakes up in the afterlife, in the underworld, but not exactly the Christian heaven or hell or purgatory. . .The inhabitants of the Asphodelian Fields wander like pilgrims, essentially aimlessly. In his wanderings, Pefley, like the others, moves from desert to seaside to surrealistic cityscapes. His wanderings would be pointless, like everyone else's, except that Lee has a quest. His greatest virtue as a living person was as a loving and faithftil husband to Judy, his petite wife who had preceded him in death. Pefley's wanderings then become a quest for Judy, and give his afterlife some meaning. He is an old-fashioned romantic, a Quixote, and worships his Judy. Along the way, Perdue has a good deal of fun with the punishment centers Pefley discovers in the Meadows of Asphodel. More predictably, the punishment for the idle rich is to have molten gold poured down their gullets. This is practically a classic. The harmful rich — those who gained wealth by injuring others — and publishers, are in Tartarus, being punished in ways too gruesome to view. Pefley is essentially a libertarian. He is an individualist but hates greed, excess, and yuppies. He has read thousands of books, as he will tell you proudly, but loathes postmodernism in literature and theory in literary criticism. If there was a perfect, a heavenly time for Pefley it would not be the late 20th century, but around 1890 to 1910, where the three Graces of our day — Atrophy, Entropy and Anomie — did not reign. Pefley is also a stickler for the correct even the most Latinate or Hellenic of language, and the style of Fields of Asphodel is a highly literate, idiosyncratic diction. Perdue is not afraid to mention stromatolites (rock formations) or atrabilious clouds and walk on. This is a smart novel, a thoughtful novel and, obviously, an odd one—and, for this critic, a nice palate-cleanser from the usual Southern fare."

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