Accordion Crimes
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Accordion Crimes

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  4,331 ratings  ·  373 reviews
Divided into nine sections and spanning a century and a continent, this novel illuminates the lives of the founders of a nation, descendants of Mexicans, Poles, Germans, the Irish, Scots and Franco-Canadians. Through the music of the accordion they express their fantasies, sorrows and exuberance.
Hardcover, 381 pages
Published June 19th 1996 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1996)
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Judy Vasseur
This book is outrageously entertaining, each paragraph is an incredible short story in itself. Each sentence is packed with interesting anecdotes and outlandish descriptions. Annie Proulx created characters that continue to swim around in my imagination. This book follows the existence of a green acccordion hand-made with great care in the late 1800's in Italy as it crosses the ocean and passes through different hands, different eras and into the modern age. Because Annie Proulx is a historian w...more
Maciek
Accordion Crimes traces the history of a small green accordion, as it's passed down through the hands of generations of various immigrants to America. I have read and liked The Shipping News, and the concept of this novel appealed to me immensely - I'm fascinated by immigrants/emigrants and their experience of leaving the home country and adopting to the new one, full of hopes for a better life - often escaping dire poverty and persecution. During the great transatlantic migrations at the turn o...more
Sheba
It's hard for me to say enough about Proulx. In this book, she follows an accordion as it changes hands and moves around the world. She tells the stories of the people who play it. The accordion as a "silent" narrator.

Again, the story is quintessentially American as it traces the immigrant journey Stateside...just the description of the accordion itself, in the beginning pages is enough for me to recommend the book.

I know that Proulx is shy, retiring, even reclusive (my favorite writers, her, Sa...more
Suzanne
Very disappointing. This book's main character is the accordian whose whereabouts the novel follows through magical and strange circumstances. The character development was lacking and the story was hard to follow. One of those books one has to force oneself to finish.
Joyce Lagow
Annie Proulx has written an odd and compelling book, ostensibly about the fate of those who in one way or another have come into possession of a green accordion, made in Sicily towards the end of the 19th century. It passes from one person to another over a hundred years, seeming to bring bad luck on all who own it. In this narrative, however, Proulx has woven together two histories� that of various ethnic minorities in the US over the last hundred years and an account of accordion music in thos...more
Bryan
This book deserves praise for how well it is researched, crafted, and written. The whole time I am reading the book, I am wondering how much of this Proulx has lived, how much of it she has made up, and how much of it is researched. We follow the accordion as it passes thru numerous hands, generations, regions of the country. Each passing of the accordion calls forth a short story of its own, with characters that for the most part have lived hard lives and will come to hard ends. I found the tra...more
Craig Pittman
Alternate title: "Eight Million Ways to Die."

Unlike what seems like half the country, I have not read "The Shipping News" or anything else by E. Annie Proulx. But when I saw "Accordion Crimes" for sale for $1 on a library surplus books table, I picked it up and read the first page and was hooked. She offered a muscular prose style, but one that was in service to propelling the plot and giving life to the characters. The first line in particular, telling about the Sicilian who makes the accordio...more
Tom
Aug 01, 2008 Tom rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who fetishize E Annie Proulx
Shelves: fiction
Two stars for Proulx's coherent and interesting writing style. No extra stars for wasting my time on a pointless book.

Halfway through this book I knew it was going to be a chore to finish. When I finally did, I felt a great burden lift off my shoulders. I am free to read better books!

This is basically a collection of short stories focused on generally nasty people who live in America throughout the years and happen to play the (various kinds of) accordion. Apparently there are a lot of accordion...more
Murray
Annie Proulx has taken home the big awards and answered the door when Hollywood came knocking. I'd read The Shipping News and a short story collection. I expect good writing when I pull something from the shelf that bares her moniker. Nothing prepared me for the virtuosity she could bring to the page until I read Accordian Crimes. I can't say that everyone will enjoy the morbidity of her tale nor the picaresque trail of a green accordian that leaves behind a hundred stories calling out for your...more
Sara
I can't remember the last time it took me so long to get through a book. I kept thinking that it would get easier as I read on, but it wasn't until around pg. 350 (out of about 475) that I actually became mildly interested. I'd never read any Annie Proulx and the description of the book intrigued me, but it was nothing like I expected. I was hoping for more of a story ABOUT the accordeon, I guess, but it was really how the accordeon ended up in the hands of random people that you never had any i...more
Dave
A book that traces the history of a little diatonic button accordion through the people that used it. I enjoyed "The Shipping News," and thought that this might be a clever story. I was more than a little disappointed. This depressing little history had a lot of squalor, a lot of grime--and through it all, the urge to make music...NOPE. More like if there is a little kid in the vignette, he/she is going to be either neglected, physically abused or sexually molested.
Wendy
I'm still reeling from this novel. I could hardly bear to put it down in the evening, and read it in giant, sustaining gulps. I loved it.

I cannot recommend it highly enough--I would put this in my personal top 10 novels, certainly my top 5 contemporary American novels--and Annie Proulx is remarkable.

I've moved right into reading Heartsongs--short stories by Proulx. I can't get enough of her 'radiant prose.'

Read this book, my friends. It is brilliant.
Melissa
If this book was about 250 pages, I would have given it the highest rating, but by the end of it, I felt exhausted from a literary sense. Proulx is a truly talented writer, crafting so much detail and description into her prose that you can really see and sense her characters and scenes like no other authors I've read. The concept of the story was unique in that the main character is an accordion that gets accidentally passed through many hands over a 150 year period during pivotal American immi...more
D. B.
Aug 20, 2008 D. B. rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: desperate housewives
Shelves: fiction-lit
Proulx proves beyond a shadow of a doubt (whatever that means) that a best-selling novel can be bereft of plot, transformative characters, evocative prose, stimulating dialogue, and other common literary elements that would normally serve to keep the reader engaged and stop them from either killing themselves or using the book as kindling. In fact, Accordian Crimes is physical evidence that a book can be composed entirely of comma separated lists and people will still read it if enough self-appo...more
Helena
Yep, this book was totally awesome. I had already read one book by the not-so-illustrious (though not rightfully so) Annie Proulx, and I already knew I liked her writing style very much. Rich use of vocabulary, and wonderful images, as well as beautiful descriptions. She also has a very fine ear for dialogue and voice, which clearly shows in her writing.

Needless to say that 'voice' was one of the most important aspects in this book. The premise is this: at the beginning of the book we see an Ita...more
Jereme Gray
I'm sorry to say I did not enjoy this. It was a slog to get through. Though the writing is sound technically I was looking for a through line. Somewhere. Anywhere.

Alright, I'm ok with this being more a collection of short stories or novella length pieces with some arc running through the length of the book. That link was nominal at best. So how about a through line within the individual chapters? Not to be found either.

In a novel with so many characters there are very few I ended up giving a d...more
Patrick
I went into reading this book hoping for an accordion experience, and I wasn't disappointed. Annie Proulx follows a green button accordion from the 1800s through to the present day, though not always focused on that specific instrument. There are indeed crimes in the book, but the more interesting aspect is seeing various ethic groups and how they use accordions in their music through the years.

It can be a little "adult" at times, and seeing how different ethnic people were anti-other-ethnic-peo...more
Ed Smiley
This book may startle those who were charmed by the far more gentle and restrained The Shipping News. It is a far more original, far darker, and far edgier work.

This is, in one sense, the life story of an accordion, a work of love of by a destitute Italian immigrant whose dreams were doomed to fail, the living thing which is a music, a tradition. This accordion, much like the ring in The Lord of the Rings, seems to want to be found, and seems to pick people, often leaving their lives upside down...more
Jo Deurbrouck
This book disappoints me. In me. It is literally crammed with perfect descriptions, just-so sentences, brutally sharp ironies and understated, spot-on observations of human nature. In other words, it's classic Annie Proulx.

But I only barely stayed with it.

Two reasons: first, the book is unrelentingly harsh for more than 500 pages. I plain got tired of this world of sad, misguided, damaged and downright evil humans. Second, the only character who runs completely through the book is an accordian....more
Janet
Apr 13, 2009 Janet rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: maybe a short story college professor???
Recommended to Janet by: Just picked it up
I picked up this book because I LOVED The Shipping News and The Red Violin, which has the same story format as this book. I also love history, specifically the story of immigrants, so this book seemed to have it all for me.

I really don't like to give books bad reviews because I know a book is someone's deeply personal creation, but in this case, I must...

First of all, this is really a book of short stories masquerading as a novel. That might be okay for some, but I really don't like short stor...more
Alix
It was a difficult choice between 3 or 4 stars. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I think the author is a wonderful storyteller, but I would have preferred more continuity in the novel: the story follows an accordion, so the novel reads more like a loosely connected sequence of short stories. Each new story would take a few pages to get into, and once I found myself lost in the story, it would end and the next story would begin. If my personal taste leaned more toward short stories, I woul...more
will
Apr 11, 2007 will rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Longwinded and preoccupied with history. In other short stories and books Proulx proved herself a master at casting a compelling story before a meaningful historical backdrop. To me, when history takes precedence over story the writing suffers. That's what happens here. Proulx doesn't seem to care about her characters so much as the ambitious task she has set before her, which is to follow the peripatetic path of a simple green organetto for a hundred years.

Some of her plot twists are interesti...more
Jeanne
The premise sounded interesting: following the accordian through a series of owners from all walks of life. But the characters were extremely uninteresting. I didn't mind the book's darkness because I really didn't care at all what happened to any of the characters, tragic or otherwise. But it's not enough that it's boring... Proulx's writing style is so frustrating. One paragraph might be a single sentence, going on and on, through myriad descriptive phrases, punctuated with endless commas, so...more
Jonah Gibson
I didn't enjoy reading this book very much. I found it depressing as hell. The fact remains though that it is a superb display of writing skill - inventive, poignant, significant, and sublime. I think E. Annie Proulx is perhaps the best American author working today. Even when she is beating you half to death with one cataclysm after another befalling characters that you want to root for but just can't quite manage to because they are so frail or flawed or undeserving, she manages to illuminate...more
Kelsey
Sigh. I had such a hard time with "The Shipping News" -- god knows why I turned straiht to another Proulx novel. I think I was hoping I'd like this one more. But I just didn't. It was fine at first, although the characters and situations continually struck me as overdrawn. But what I disliked the most is that, so far as I can tell, it's more a collection of short stories rather than a coherent novel. Yes, there's the accordian in each section, but that's about it. And I really didn't care enough...more
Nancy
Who would guess that a small green accordion would pass through so many and such diverse hands, ending up as a part of so many stories? The first story is that of the maker, who immigrates from Sicily to New Orleans. The accordion is subsequently stolen, pawned, lost, inherited, trashed, rescued, and perhaps suffers some other fates that I've forgotten. A new story begins with each change, almost invariably a story of hardship, suffering, cruelty, or cunning, and readers must steel themselves to...more
Charlie
Historical research, regardless of depth and scope, does not imbue an author with the ability to write in the voice of just anyone, from any epoch, of any race. The majority of this book is insulting shit. The only readable section comes at the very end, when Proulx returns to writing about ranchers on the plains. And it doesn't make up for the rest.
Amy
I couldn't get through this book. After a while, I really couldn't keep track of all the new characters, and I guess I don't have enough interest in accoridans to care where it traveled through its existance. :(
The author used a lot of interesting, big words....but I really hated her style. I only read 1/2 of it though.
Root_rambler
I love accordions. I lived in New England for four years and loved the big, brassy sounds of the piano accordions and button accordions at contra dances. I lived above a concertina/accordion shop and several of my friends were concertina makers/salespeople (this concertina shop was mentioned in the acknowledgements section of the book). I am a self-described accordion nut. So I picked up this book, thinking 'what could be better than a book all about accordions and the wonderful music they make?...more
Mirrani
This is the story of an accordion being passed around from owner to owner in different ways. The book is made up of the histories that go with each owner, and how each becomes associated with a "crime" in some way, though some of the crimes are more obvious than others. The writing is beautiful and the concept of following the instrument through time means that a lot of plot and backstory had to be worked out in each section. Never once did you feel like you were being bombarded with yet another...more
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1262010
Also published as E. Annie Proulx
Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, The Shipping News (1993), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994. Her short story "Brokeback Mountain" was adapted as an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning major motion picture released in 2005. Brokeback Mountain received massive c...more
More about Annie Proulx...
The Shipping News Brokeback Mountain Close Range Postcards That Old Ace In The Hole

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“The world is a staircase," hissed the accordion maker in the darkness. "Some go up and some come down. We must ascend.” 6 likes
“It was as if his eye were an ear and a crackle went through it each time he shot a look at the accordion. ...
The notes fell, biting and sharp; it seemed the tooth that bit was hollowed with pain. ”
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