The third novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'The Shipping News', 'Accordion Crimes' spans generations, continents and a century and confirms the hallucinatory power of Proulx's writing. 'Accordion Crimes' is a masterpiece of story-telling that spans a century and a continent. It opens in 1890 in Sicily, when an accordion-maker and ...Read MoreThe third novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'The Shipping News', 'Accordion Crimes' spans generations, continents and a century and confirms the hallucinatory power of Proulx's writing. 'Accordion Crimes' is a masterpiece of story-telling that spans a century and a continent. It opens in 1890 in Sicily, when an accordion-maker and his son, carrying little more than his finest button accordion, begin their voyage to the teeming, violent port of New Orleans. Within a year, the accordion-maker is murdered by an anti-Italian lynch mob, but his instrument carries the novel into another community of immigrants: German-Americans founding a new town in South Dakota. Moving from South Dakota to Texas, from Montana to Maine, the nine instantly compelling and intricately connected sections of the novel illuminate the lives of the founders of a nation, descendants of Mexicans, Poles, Germans, Irish, Scots and Franco-Canadians. Through the music of the accordion they express their fantasies, sorrows and exuberance.Read Less
Publishers Weekly, 1996-04-15 America's ethnic minorities have rarely been rendered with the insight, intuition and unsentimental candor that Proulx brings to the large canvas of characters and reaches of landscape in this ambitious new work. The narrative has eight parts, each composed of short vignettes that depict the cultural baggageæthe attitudes, behaviors and social conditioningæthat immigrants brought with them, and the ways in which they joined, yet held aloof from, American society. Beginning in the late 1800s and ending 100 years later, the novel follows a vividly realized cast of characters, whose names are as colorful as their stories: Ludwig Messermacher, Abelardo Relampago Salazar, Dolor Gagnon, Onesiphore Malefoot, Hieronim Przybysz. Their common bond is ownership of a green button accordion, which was brought to these shores by a Sicilian immigrant and, after his death at the hands of a lynch mob, was transported back and forth across the continent by various combinations of inheritance, violence and bad luck. With mesmerizing skill, Proulx summons up the attitudes and speech of her characters, vigorously detailing a formidable number of settings, including New Orleans, Hornet, Texas, Random, Maine, Prank, Iowa, and Old Glory, Minnesota. She can evoke a teeming, fetid slum as clearly as she can a Montana ranch. An invariable characteristic of these immigrants and their families is the tendency to think of others as "Americans.'' In their own minds, they are still Italians or Germans or Norwegians or Poles or French Canadian or Cajuns. Almost without exception, they express ancient prejudices and newfound racism: the New Orleans natives hate the Italians, who hate the blacks; Iowa's Germans hate the Irish. What makes all this so spectacular is th at Proulx is a master at incorporating potentially numbing detail and specificityæfrom the components of an accordion to the bloodlines of Appaloosas and the stages of a Polish funeralæinto her vigorous prose. Traditional ethnic musicæplayed by various characters during their brief ownership of the increasingly derelict accordionæis conveyed with impressive authority. The range of scenes, from a drunken birthday party that resembles an animated Booth cartoon to a brutal reaction to a civil rights sit-in at a lunch counter, bespeaks a brilliant imagination. Proulx makes grotesque accidents, bloody catastrophes and bizarre events seem an inescapable part of human existence. If eventually some sameness of mood occurs, and a resultant diminution of tension, this is balanced by the reader's interest in the accordion's odyssey and in the lives it touches en route. For this is a cautionary tale in which pride and greed and self-delusion vie with basic human needs for love, comfort and spiritual sustenance. BOMC dual main selection; author tour. (June)
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