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Darlington's Fall by Brad Leithauser

Darlington's Fall

by Brad Leithauser

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541312,882 (3.5)3



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I love the novel-poem DARLINGTON'S FALL, and rate it up there with EUGENE ONEGIN, DON JUAN, and GOLDEN GATE. I would like to include an excerpt: this is not one that moves the plot forward, but I love Leithauser's reflections on the sounds of words used for animal names.

(Though as for that, what gorgeous words they are:
Aurochs and oryx, gorilla and gazelle,
Ouzel and zebra, jaguar and jacamar,
Zebu and emu, lemur, philomel;
Saber-toothed tiger and scarlet tanager,
Golden tamarind, paradise flycatcher;
Langur and lamprey, quoll and quokka,
Thrips and thrush, and foraminifera;
And the prodigal, sprung from winter's forge:
The yet-glowing ember of the rouge-gorge.)

(But as for that, what great plug-ugly words
They are: numbat, meerkat, muskrat, sprat;
Boobies and boobacks, warthogs and wattlebirds;
Milk snake, natterjack, muntjac, jackass; flat-
head catfish, wrasse, and trogan; grunion and pout,
Potoroo, rudistan, and red-necked grunt; black
Crappie, white grub, screwworn, screech owl; snout
Beetle, bettong, dugong, and stickeback;
slug, quahog, dogfish, earwig, pug,
Poby, pig-footed bandicoot, stinkbug.)

Beautiful! Listen to the meter! One of the things that I really loved about the book is that I fell in love with Darlington, and by extension, with the author. And art does that: makes me fall in love with people and places that I might not otherwise notice or care about.

If I have exceeded the limits of copyright by quoting too much, I guess I'll be excised. ( )
1 vote Doulton | Feb 27, 2007 |
And the odd occasional shortcomings should not blur recognition of the daring and achievement of Darlington's Fall, its range of language and imagery, its moments of gliding beauty, and the gift for storytelling that unfolds in it.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, W.S. Merwin (pay site) (May 2, 2002)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375709444, Paperback)

The hero of this one-of-a-kind novel is Russel Darlington, a born naturalist and an unlikely romantic hero. We meet him in the year 1895—a seven-year-old boy first glimpsed chasing a frog through an Indiana swamp. And we follow this idealistic, appealing man for nearly forty years: into college and over the Rockies in pursuit of a new species of butterfly; through a clumsy courtship and into a struggling marriage; across the Pacific, where on a tiny, rainy island he suffers a nightmarish accident; through the deaths of friends and family and into a seemingly hopeless passion for an unapproachable young woman.

Darlington’s Fall is ultimately a love story. It is written in verse that—vivid, accessible, and lush—imparts an intensity to the story and its luminous gallery of characters: Russel’s rich, taciturn, up-right, guilt-driven father; Miss Kraus, his formidable housekeeper; Ernst Schrock, his maddening, gluttonous mentor; and Pauline Beaudette, the beautiful, ill-starred girl who becomes his wife. Leithauser’s embracingly compassionate outlook invites us into their world—into a past so sharply realized it feels like the present.

In Darlington’s Fall, Brad Leithauser offers an ingeniously plotted story and the virtues long associated with his elegant stanzas: wit, music, and a keen eye for the natural world. His independent careers as novelist and poet come together brilliantly here, producing something rare and wonderful in the landscape of contemporary American writing: a book that bends borders, a happy marriage of poetry and fiction.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:00 -0400)

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