Over the course of twenty years and eight novels, James Wilcox has established himself as one of the most distinctive and beloved voices of the South, a comic master whose work has been praised by writers as diverse as Robert Penn Warren and Anne Tyler. From Modern Baptists to Plain and Normal, he has charted the collision of the stubbornly genteel Old South with a world of franchise food and ethnic diversity, as time-cherished manners and mores threaten to vanish completely. In Heavenly Days—his first novel in five years—Wilcox returns to the familiar landscape of Tula Springs, Louisiana, and introduces Lou Jones, a sweetly hapless heroine trying to come to terms with a way of life for which she is utterly unequipped.
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James Wilcox is the author of eight novels. The director of Creative Writing at Louisiana State University, he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.From Publishers Weekly:
After an excursion to New York City in his fine but atypical Plain and Normal (1998), Wilcox returns triumphantly to Tula Springs, La., the setting for most of his novels, starting with his dazzling debut, Modern Baptists (1983). Twenty years later, the author's quintessential Southern town still boasts its share of endearing eccentrics. A former college professor with a Ph.D. in music, Lou Jones writes a monthly column for the North American Bassoon Society newsletter, but she earns her bread as the receptionist at WaistWatch, a fundamentalist-owned "makeover franchise." ("Every day at WaistWatch is Christmas, the franchise's orientation booklet explains. Every client is gifted every day with a rise in self-esteem.") Lou's friend and fellow employee, Maigrite, who has one leg shorter than the other, is too proud to park in the WaistWatch handicap space and is always taking Lou's spot. So in an effort to create a proper parking space for Maigrite, Lou tries to cover the blue handicap lines with ivory paint (the asphalt's "pits and humps ruining her straight line"), thereby attracting the unwelcome attention of Mrs. Melvin Tudie, the local tax assessor. This is just one of many small, interlocking incidents in a comic plot that doesn't seem to go much of anywhere, yet manages to make some subtle points about such serious issues as racial and religious tolerance. Wilcox's eye for the telling detail is as unerring as ever, his dead-on dialogue sparkles with Southern charm and his affection for his well-meaning if often misguided characters is infectious. Once again he shows that gentle, civilized humor can be quite as effective as the more over-the-top variety.
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