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Tito Perdue

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The New Austerities
by Tito Perdue   

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Books by Tito Perdue
· Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture
· The Sweet-Scented Manuscript
· Fields of Asphodel
· Lee
                >> View all


Literary Fiction

Publisher:  Peachtree ISBN-10:  1561450863


Copyright:  1994

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Barnes &
Peachtree Publishers

Lee Pefley, a man who makes misanthropy look benevolent, decides to flee the decay and drudgery of New York City for his childhood home in Alabama. Accompanied by his beloved wife Judy ("short and getting shorter"), $19,000 in hundred dollar bills, a supply of pilfered library books, and a pistol, Lee sets out on a bleakly hilarious tour of the eastern states. A passionate lover of classical literature, an incurable kleptomaniac, an overwrought paranoid, and a hopeless insomniac, Lee looks at the world through uniquely hallucinatory, and definitely not rose-colored glasses.

From William Brisick's review in the Daily News of Nov. 27, 1994:
"... after the reader gets to know Lee Pefley he'll be willing to follow him anywhere. Lee, 52, has an office job in a New York insurance company. He hates what he does; he also hates anyone else doing it well. Lee's urges are both artistic and primitive: He reads books (the ancient Greeks especially), listens to classical music; he drinks almost constantly, and wanders through fields and woods...
He prefers the middle of the night, "a promise of the time when it would be night always and none left alive but artists and heroes..."

 How to escape New York City and settle, very happily, elsewhere.
He was sleeping a sleep that had started out well enough, but that then turned to so many multifarious bad dreams that soon there was nothing left to him but a worm-eaten structure held together by thread alone. Lee cursed. Already he had been made to rouse himself when the tide turned and then to fire off three shots at a certain jesting crab that had grown too bold during the time that he himself was still suffering under the spell of sleep. The wine bottle was empty. Finally he forced himself to stand and stretch and shake the sand out of his lap. Behind him, a thousand miles to the north-northeast, winter was coming in and with nothing between him and it save only a thin slice of crimson-colored autumn now encroaching ever so slowly, inch by inch, over the once-lovely terrain of ancient Pennsylvania...

There was much to see. Coming over the hill, he almost spoke out loud to find now one certain field that had turned to gingham against a sky of plaid. Here, too, love affairs had taken place, ignorance and passion, hostility between families, and the death of girls - the landscape had worn down almost to nothing beneath the burden of it.

Professional Reviews

The New Austerities
Lee voices a howl of protest against regimented and standardized modern existence, sentiments with which discriminating readers may find themselves in accord. His relentlessly bleak vision is never lugubrious, however, due to Perdue's magically evocative descriptive powers, pungent wit and iconoclastic point of view. (From Publishers' Weekly, April 11, 1994.)

The New Austerities
This is the prequel to Tito Perdue's 1991 novel "Lee," and it is a wonderful, comic, almost surreal contribution to the literature of antimodernism....
To be sure, anything pratical that is done around Lee is achieved by his wife, Judy, with whom he is still in love after thirty years. Television is another dreadful and debilitating affliction, of course - although Lee does watch it for the purpose of "studying the commercials." If Lee were to have his way, the world would be "a small world getting smaller.. a fine people getting finer..."
There is, apparently, more of the "Lee cycle" to come. I, for one, wait with impatience. (From Katherine Power's review in The Boston Globe of Dec. 11, 1994)

Dramatic Style Marks Perdue's Second Novel
... Life for Lee in New York is replete with misery. He hates the "motivated" people of the city - "the bonded and insured, the deodorized and manicured."
... Lee's apartment, which has three locks and is a complex maze of two dozen little cubicles, is filled with a telescope which enables him to spy on his neighbors and to survey the sights of the city...
Insomnia is a terrible problem for Lee: sleep requires "time, genius, great suffering and perfect coordination..."

...On the 27th day of the trip, the couple enters the small Alabama town "that Lee has been describing for thirty years, forcing his wife to listen." (From Rickie Pierce's review in The Chattanooga Free Press of Nov. 6th, 1994.)

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