Published by Doubleday in hardcover and subsequently in paper, the novel Waveland is set in the coastal town of Waveland, Mississippi, a year after hurricane Katrina leveled the place. The book is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle versions at Amazon and elsewhere.
In his newest novel of dysfunction and love along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Barthelme, as he did so incisively in Elroy Nights (2003), dissects middle-age malaise. His characters often seem shipwrecked, and in this off-kilter story of death and divorce, they pretty much are after Katrina transforms the modest beachfront town of Waveland into “ten miles of debris.” Barthelme offers stunning descriptions of the hurricane and its aftermath as he tracks unmoored Vaughn, an architect who has lost his passion for buildings and romance after his reliably unpredictable wife ends their marriage. Brooding, funny, and oddly passive, Vaughn has wandered into a companionable relationship with Greta, the prime suspect in her husband’s murder, and a skittish friendship with hair-trigger Eddie, who lost a hand in the first Gulf War. Meanwhile, Vaughn’s widower father endures a cruelly limited existence. In this powerfully atmospheric story of loneliness and risk, Barthelme slyly conceals emotional and philosophical intensity beneath the peculiarity of circumstance, the dazzle of hilarious repartee, and the luster of gorgeous prose. –Donna Seaman in Booklist–This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In his first novel since PEN/Faulkner finalist Elroy Nights, Barthelme offers a strangely detached exploration of the post-Katrina Mississippi Gulf Coast. One year after the hurricane and a divorce, Vaughn Williams has more or less recovered from the shock of both. Renting a room from a younger woman who was widowed under mysterious circumstances, Vaughn slides into a low-key romance with his landlady. Their cordial yet detached friendship with Vaughn’s ex-wife, Gail, is put to the test when Gail asks Vaughn and his girlfriend, Greta, to move in with her after she’s assaulted by her new boyfriend. The change of scenery does little to simplify Vaughn’s love life, and his strange new role stirs up his guilt surrounding the death of his father and estrangement from his brother. Oddly, though, Vaughn never seems overly concerned about the developments around him; Gail’s new beau never emerges as a threat; and Greta does not seem bothered by the living arrangement. There are some beautifully written passages, but Barthelme’s reluctance to break his characters’ cozy familiarity makes it difficult for readers to engage with Vaughn’s apparent struggles. (Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Reviews of previous books
“Sublime. . . . Barthelme seems to argue, we might still find a separate peace from the terrors of the wider world.”–Esquire
“Sophisticated, and wry. . . . A triumph of meaning—and writing. . . . A treasure of a book.”—Buffalo News
“Waveland is signature Barthelme.”—Bookforum
“Frederick Barthelme is a master.”–The New York Times
“It’s impossible to conceive of any writer doing what he does any better than he does it.”—Margaret Atwood, The New York Times Book Review
“As clever and precise as a French farce; except that instead of doors opening sharply on one side and slamming shut on the other, these dangle indecisively ajar.”—The Boston Globe
“One of the most distinctive prose stylists since Hemingway.” —Vogue
“Barthelme’s latest is about loss…but it is also a recognition that starting over, however involuntarily, forces people out of habit and into building something that might hold up better this time.”–Maud Newton, NPR
“Barthelme’s eye and ear unerringly capture the moment he lives in.”—The Los Angeles Times
“Illustrates the beauty that sympathetic, precise examination of people and places, stripped of any grandiosity or overcomplication, can convey.”—Philadelphia City Paper