E. Annie Proulx's Accordion Crimes is a masterpiece of storytelling that spans a century and a continent. Proulx brings the immigrant experience in America to life through the eyes of the descendants of Mexicans, Poles, Africans, Irish-Scots, Franco-Canadians and many others, all linked by their successive ownership of a simple green accordion. The music they make is their last link with the past -- voice for their fantasies, sorrows and exuberance. Proulx's prodigious knowledge, unforgettable characters and radiant language make Accordion Crimes a stunning novel, exhilarating in its scope and originality.
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Clearly the author put a lot of thought into the back stories of all the different families who come into possession of the Green Accordion. Her frequent asides hint at the fullness of the story but each scene is so quick, so flitting that I found it difficult to engage any of the characters, save for the builder of the accordion. Each of these 50 page chapters could easily have been expanded into a separate novel making for a series of novels about the Accordion but I'm sure that her publisher wouldn't have wanted to take that much of a risk on a series of books about a musical instrumentmore
The basics: Accordion Crimes traces the lives of immigrants from a variety of countries throughout the 1900's as a single green accordion ties the stories loosely together.My thoughts: From the very first pages, I was enchanted with the writing of E. Annie Proulx. I vaguely recall reading Close Range in college, but I can't remember if I even liked her writing or stories. I'll remember her now. The downside to my love of her writing was her brilliant characterization, as I didn't realize when I started this book that it was a series of (long) short stories. When the first story came to an end, I was devastated. In some ways, the book never quite recovered for me. Despite the significance of the accordion to both the characters and stories, the accordion was perhaps my least favorite aspect of this novel. As a narrative device, it worked beautifully. I loved the idea of an object passing through the lives and hands of different people, and most of the transitions were intriguing. To fault Proulx for being disappointed with this book because I was expecting a novel is unfair. I like to know as little as possible before reading books that come highly recommended (or appear on prize lists). While Accordion Crimes is beautifully written and features several engaging stories, I failed to emotionally connect with some of them. As is so often the case for me as a reader, I enjoyed the first story best. When it ended, I was sad and struggled most with the second story. Once I got a sense of her overarching goals and structure, I was drawn into most of the other stories, but none captured the same spark as the first one.Favorite passage: "...for he conducted his life as everyone does--by guessing at the future."The verdict: While the writing was gorgeous, the stories didn’t come together enough for me. Ultimately, it didn’t feel like a novel, despite the strong thematic elements. While I’ll eagerly read Proulx again, next time I’ll try a novel.more
Interesting rather than engaging. Undoubtedly very well written, albeit in Proulx's rather baroque style that takes some getting used to. Amazingly rich and detailed, but that's just the problem with this book. It's just too much. Too much content, too much detail, too much information. I started losing interest by the time I reached the French immigrants in the bayou and after that I couldn't really work it up again. There are enough storylines in the book for at least ten novels, and small details like the parenthetical conclusions giving you an anecdotal summary of the rest of a certain character's life, which seems clever to begin with, just seems laboured towards the end, when you're beyond caring. The fact that the sections are so disconnected - you know they are going to end soon anyway - and that Proulx makes most of her characters so unlikeable, means that you don't really become invested in what happens to the people in the story (let alone the accordion, after a while). I do see where she was going with the book, though, and the perspective of all the immigrants is very, very interesting. There are certain rather sad themes running throughout the book, such as every ethnic group's firm belief in its own superiority and consequent treatment of all the others which is just as xenophobic as its own reception by the American "mainstream" (whatever that might be, after all). I guess these points could have been made in a much shorter novel, though. Unfortunately, a lot of the time I got the feeling that the story was just a vehicle for the writer to show off all the (undoubtedly excruciatingly painstaking) research she had done.more
8 quite long stories about immigrant life in the US all linked by their involvement in some way with accordian music, but also sharing deprivation, hardship, misery, depravity and isolation. All the immigrants are on their own, it vividly shows up the lack of state help, but none of them seem to have loving friends or relations. She certainly knows a lot about accordian music, but I should hate to be trapped in a railway carriage with her talking on the subject. She has a compulsion to lists, which are paraded before you, the writing is a bit like a stream of consciousness.I wondered whether she was really going for a sort of black humour, a subtitle could be "99 horrible ways to die violently", but surely life isn't really this bad, even in the USA?more
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