If you don’t laugh yourself sick over this gloriously absurd new novel from the author of 1994’s Louisiana Power & Light (to which it’s a partial sequel), you’re probably just plain unentertainable.
It’s Dufresne’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in the Louisiana swamp country, where the inhabitants of Shiver-de-Freeze (a place-name mangled from the original French) are getting themselves ready for the wedding of Ariane Thevenot and Grisham Loudermilk. Things get complicated right away, because devilishly handsome Grisham can’t deny himself one more fling (if not several) with former girlfriend Miranda Ferry (who works as a “chicken-sexer”: don’t ask), and Ariane can’t resist the adoration of impulsive Adlai Birdsong. Meanwhile, good-looking widow Earlene Fontana considers the attentions of morose Varden Roebuck, occasionally thinking to fret about her precocious 11-year-old Boudou, who can’t decide whether to deliver up his superhuman memory for scrutiny at a nearby scientific institute, or his virginity to the female “conjoined” twins known as “Tous-les-Deux,” who have eyes (and other shared body parts) for him. These are all basically likable folks: not just the aforementioned, but even hypocritical souls like sex-obsessed Father Pat and born-again Durwood Tulliver and hellfire-and-damnation preacher Alvin Lee Loudermilk, as well as miscellaneous gossips and rednecks and snake-handlers. Grisham and Ariane do swap vows, and their ceremonials include the performance of a hilariously deranged playlet, Evangeline, as Performed by the Mechanics of Shiver-de-freeze (oh, and there’s a werewolf in it). And when Dufresne wraps everything up, the metafictionist in him (who’s been chatting with the reader at odd intervals throughout the book) takes several peeks at his characters’ futures, in a garrulous Epilogue and a mock-scholarly Appendix. You’ll be pleased to hear that Boudou’s formidable brains get put to good use.
Probably the most enjoyable comic novel since Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. A certifiable hoot.