Locus Magazine Review

Louisiana Breakdown, Lucius Shepard (Golden Gryphon 1-930846-14-2, $21.95, 145 pp, hc) April 2003. Cover by J. K. Potter.

Lucius Shepard's latest long novella, Louisiana Breakdown, covers . . . emotional ground . . . but with a sonorous majesty uniquely the author's own. Ever a moralist on the scale of Mark Twain, Shepard sets out here to capture the quintessence of the world's hypocrisy, ignorance, and disaffection in a portrait of a small, idiosyncratic yet entirely representative, American town. Grail, Louisiana, is evoked in opening and closing passages of superb bluesy particularity; in between, a musician from California becomes marooned in the town (one of many breakdowns, actual and figurative, in the story), falls in love with the local beauty, realizes she is central to magical intrigues connected with a Faustian bargain struck by the townsfolk long ago and now approaching renewal, and exposes the circularity, the utter constrictive futility, of that pact. All the local detail — the clumsy incestuous solidarity of the community, the lazy concupiscence of its social and cultural life, the tumbledown seediness of its economy and architecture, its innumerable failures of judgment and taste — cannot conceal a larger significance to Grail's accommodation with the supernatural, an accommodation the breakdown of which signals the arrival of a global time of troubles, an epoch Shepard's thunderous voice is ideally equipped to prophesy. Louisiana Breakdown is a small masterpiece, its love story a little ordinary, but its cumulative power breathtaking.

— Nick Gevers, Locus, April 2003


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