Accordion Crimes (Magill Book Reviews)
In the highly acclaimed novels POSTCARDS (1992) and THE SHIPPING NEWS (1993), E. Annie Proulx showed how individuals are frustrated and destroyed by their own frailties and by an indifferent and malevolent fate. ACCORDION CRIMES is even darker than those works, primarily because it extends this lesson in life’s miseries across the span of a century and applies it to dozens of different people.
The protagonist of the novel and, significantly, the character that survives longest is an accordion, crafted in Sicily and brought to the United States by its maker. When he is killed by an anti-Italian mob, the accordion passes to a black Louisianian, who is also murdered, then to a German immigrant who has settled in Iowa. Later it goes to Texas, to Maine, back to Louisiana, then to Chicago, Illinois, and to Montana. Its existence ends in Mississippi, when some children throw it onto the highway to be crushed by an eighteen-wheeler.
Even then, the accordion fares better than its owners. If they are not murdered by their fellow human beings, they are destroyed either by nature, often in an untimely fashion (killed, for example, by the venom of a spider or a rattlesnake), or by their own needs and desires. Examples of the latter include the German Hans Beutle, who dies after an operation to restore his virility, or the French Canadian Dolor Gagnon, who kills himself when he has to give up his music.
Although there is much sadness in...
(The entire section is 374 words.)
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Accordion Crimes (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
The novels of E. Annie Proulx show life at its most heartbreaking. Her characters are frustrated, betrayed, and tormented; their hopes and their very survival are jeopardized by the forces of nature and by human malevolence. In Postcards (1992), Proulx shows how a family virtually destroys itself because the family members are incapable of forgetting old injuries; in The Shipping News (1993), she demonstrates how individuals are imperiled not only by human selfishness and irresponsibility but also by the unpredictable and unforgiving ocean on which these islanders must depend for their very existence. Although profound in their thematic implications, both of these earlier novels are limited in scope, the first, because though the action covers a fairly long period, it involves a single family, and the second, because it is the story of a brief period in the life of one protagonist, who lives in a small and close-knit community.
Accordion Crimes is very different from the author’s earlier works. With its huge cast of characters, its dizzying changes in setting, and its hundred-year time span, it has the complexity, as well as the episodic quality, of an epic. There is no epic hero or heroine, however, to unify the work. The protagonist of Accordion Crimes is a green accordion, and each of the eight chapters in the book is presented as a separate installment in the accordion’s adventuresome life.
(The entire section is 1952 words.)