TUPELO NIGHTS by John Ed. Bradley


Email this review


Raw energy and boyish charm fuel this darkly humorous first novel about the quick and the dead in small-town Louisiana. When young John Girlie, the former LSU football star, returns to sad and sleepy Old Field, he's greeted around town with the same question: why doesn't he go pro and make his people proud? As he tells it here, in his mournful, often liquored-up voice, John's got a bunch of demons to exorcise, and a few foolish loves to deal with right there in lil' ole' Old Field. To begin with, he comes from ""a long line of quitters."" There's J. Beauregard Girlie, his father, a wealthy and successful lawyer who left home without a trace when his son was ten, and hence is a ""coward and an asshole"" in the latter's less-than-charitable opinion; and before him, there was his daddy, Jason, a one-term senator, a drunk who squandered his money and stayed around Old Field long enough to suck on a shotgun, much to his grandson's dismay; and now, there's John's confused kid brother, Sam Girlie, a fratboy at Lshue, who's about to change his last name in a pathetic attempt to repudiate the Girlie legacy. Weak men run with weird women, as the Girlies seem to prove. In John's case, he's torn between two loves, one being his mother--""Miss Lake Pontchartrain"" in her prime--and the other a woman his mother forbids him to see. Ever since her husband left, Janie Maines Girlie made her boy promise to ""always come home,"" and he has, only to find himself drawn into a potentially incestuous bond. At the same time, while hanging out with his best friend (himself a Jesuit manquÉ and now a nocturnal gravedigger), John becomes obsessed with the mysterious beauty who also haunts the cemetery. An epiphany of sorts results when John and his buddy Charley, who's been camping out in one of his graves, decide to ""fuck a bunch of dying."" These tortured Louisiana Catholics find no redemption nowhere, no how. A winning narrative voice redeems the callow insights.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1988
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown