Sunday, October 7, 2012

Like it is

There are some writers of whom I can say that I have read every book they have ever written. 
Of these, one of my all-time favourites is the American novelist James Lee Burke. I admire the astonishing richness of his fabricated worlds, the way he transports the reader effortlessly (or so it seems) into his characters' complexities, and the sheer beauty of his writing.

I have just finished reading his latest book, Creole Belle, which is the newest in a series set in New Orleans around his protagonist, Dave Robicheaux. Here is an extract which may demonstrate why I so enjoy the richness of these works:

"The boughs of the cypress trees were as brittle and delicate as gold leaf in the late sun. An alligator gar was swimming along the edge of the lily pads, its needle-nosed head and lacquered spine and dorsal fin parting the surface with a fluidity that was more serpent than fish. The great cogged wheels on the drawbridge were lifting its huge weight into the air, sihouetting its black outline against a molten sun. Then the wind gusted and a long shaft of amber sunlight seemed to race down the center of the bayou, like a paean to the close of day and the coming of night and the cooling of the earth, as though vespers and the acceptance of the season were a seamless and inseparable part of life that only the most vain and intransigent among us would deny."


Often in the books I will come across passages which I stop to re-read, because in some way they are so thought-provoking or meaningful. I have heard interviews with Mr Burke, and it seems to me that some of the comments made by the narrator in this book possibly voice opinions which the writer holds himself.

This paragraph brought me up short:

(Robicheaux speaking)
"I've acquired little wisdom with age. For me, the answers to the great mysteries seem more remote than ever. Emotionally, I cannot accept that a handful of evil men, none of whom ever fought in a war, some of whom never served in the military, can send thousands of their fellow countrymen to their deaths or bring about the deaths or maiming of hundreds of thousands of civilians and be lauded for their deeds. I don't know why the innocent suffer."


  1. this author can surely bring a clear image to mind (1st piece)...and his words...spoken through Robicheaux...are very wise and true. AND sad...that our young people...our children...sent to fight...possibly die...either way, come back a changed person...and not always for the better.

    perfect match...Masters of War and that passage.

    1. Yup :) I often use Masters of War as a teaching starter with senior students... gotta get 'em thinking :)

  2. That Robicheaux quote matches my own philosophy. There was a slogan I remember that said 'fighting for peace is like f'cking for virginity'. Crude, rude and close to the mark.
    I haven't read James Lee Burke. Thanks for the heads up.

    1. My philosophy too, EC.
      Another heads up - the books can be very violent at times. If you don't like that, then I wouldn't advise reading them.

  3. And Jesus don't like killin'
    No matter what the reason's for
    And your flag decal won't get you
    Into Heaven any more.

  4. Yes, I agree with Laura, so much for the bitterness of not returning home as once you were, in so many ways. My nephew that used to spend his summers with us growing up, came back from Iraq alive, but so very distant now. I have fond memories of New Orleans, and hope to visit there again, and now you have given a must read book for me! Thanks so much Alexia! As for dear Bob Dylan, he always knows the perfect words, to lift us up. As did the movie Won't Back Down. Just saw it yesterday, it is based on a true story with the most happiest of endings too.

    1. oooh haven't seen that Karen - just checked it out on imdb - it looks interesting. Thanks!


It's great when you leave a note!