jo's Reviews > Last Car to Elysian Fields

Last Car to Elysian Fields by James Lee Burke
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's review
Feb 07, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: mystery-thriller, us-regional

a third of a slow way through this book (not the book's fault), i thought i'd give myself entirely to that most overused of parts of speech, the adjective. i do this because james lee burke is a great user of adjectives, and even when he uses them abundantly he doesn't overuse them at all. but i will. because i want to. the following adjectives describe one aspect or another of this book, while also encompassing, all of them, the book as a whole. the most hackneyed (but nonetheless correctly applicable) adjectives are in ALL CAPS. some adjectives are repeated because i don't feeling like checking, some for effect. some, i'm putting there just to trick and confuse you. the ones in bold stand out because of thicker lines.

SULTRY, STEAMY, leafy, autumnal, SODDEN, LUSCIOUS, green, HUED, explosive, reflective, melancholy, DRUNKEN, SOZZLED, soaked, LONGING, desperate, hopeful, SMOKY, barbed, sarcastic, sharp, cutting, EDGY, sleepless, broken, hurt, smelly, putrid, dirty, filthy, BOOZY, olfactory, visual, LONELY, black, noirish, brown, DARK, sunny, bright, shadowy, perverted, compassionate, forgiving/en, fallen, redemptive, assuaging, taut, tense, INTENSE, adroit, skillful, DEADLY, dead, buried, inner, outer, joyless, deadened, guilty, guilt-ridden, miserable, abject, criminal, murderous, uncontrollable, pathetic, TOUGHASNAILS, sordid, compulsive, unheeded, lost, COOL, uncool, detached, lonely, alone, male, masculine, TESTOSTERONE-FUELED, tender, cuddly, needy, unhinged, enduring, surviving, SWAMPY, BRINY, purple, violet, blue, yellow, red, flaming, inflamed, infamous, DUSKY, dusty, loving, entire, disembodied, BLOODY, wounded, injured, inured, urgent, urinary, fecal, gastric, hungry.


i'm still impressed with james lee burke's use of language, but this was a tough book to finish. first, a reflection on language and the mystery genre. i have never been much of a genre reader, so reading mysteries this last year has given me new thoughts to think. here's one: through mysteries, american readers are digesting a tremendous amount of literary, sometimes experimental, sometimes difficult fiction. i don't know what the demographics of james lee burke's readers are, but this readership is certainly doing some heavy lifting. JLB writes real-deal existentialist fiction (the recurring character of the catholic priest and the pervasive presence of catholicism are a dead giveaway) and uses the language of faulkner. this is serious lit.

but i had a hard time finishing this book because the violence got the better of me. i realize dave robicheaux's self-hatred is a sort of indictment of his actions, but there is also some unquestionable lust in the vigilantism he and his best friend practice. this lust is a definite turn off for me. men brutally killing men, setting men up to be killed, battering men around like matches in matchstick boxes -- nah, i don't think so. i don't care if these men love their daughters and their dead wives. i don't care if they do it to protect women. i especially don't care if they do it to protect women. i really don't.
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Reading Progress

February 7, 2010 – Started Reading
February 7, 2010 – Shelved
February 17, 2010 –
0.0% "ach, new interface. always hard to get used to new stuff! still, it looks nice, GR!"
February 21, 2010 – Shelved as: mystery-thriller
February 21, 2010 – Shelved as: us-regional
February 21, 2010 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Jean (new)

Jean Unique review, Jo.

Wilhelmina Jenkins I wish that James Lee Burke could see your review. I think he'd like it.

message 3: by L (new)

L Your list of adjectives tell us exactly why we love to read James Lee Burke!

message 4: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo oh, you read him too, linda?

message 5: by L (new)

L I adore his work! It's violent and contains so much that bothers me, and yet . . .

message 6: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo it's deeply moral.

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