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Wilton Barnhardt

Lookaway, Lookaway

Wilton Barnhardt Lookaway Lookaway
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Biographical note:

Wilton Barnhardt is the author of three previous novels: Emma Who Saved My Life, Gospel, and Show World.  A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he teaches fiction in the masters of fine arts in the creative writing program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he lives.

Excerpt from book:

Jerilyn
 

 
There were only two white dresses that ever would matter, her mother said. The first of these was the Debutante Dress that Jerilyn would wear when she would take her father’s arm and march across the stage in Raleigh, into the single spotlight, radiant, along with all the other debs in North Carolina.
As of last week, the suspense concerning that dress had been extinguished, when Jerilyn and her pals from Mecklenburg Country Day, Bethany and Mallory, besieged uptown formal shops to hunt down their quarry, capturing and releasing, debating, embracing, denouncing many white gowns before claiming the perfectly flattering one as their own. Jerilyn suffered an hour of agony as she prayed that her more assertive friends would not fall in love with the beautiful number on the mannequin near the cashier’s station as she had. The crinkled taffeta, treated with some French-termed process, so smooth, like petting a puppy, had an internal corset, mermaid tail, subtle beading that sparkled opalescent around the slimming bodice, all blooming out upon layer upon layer of tulle, soft and dreamy. Wearing it would defy gravity; to walk into the light would be like floating in on a tulle cloud, something right out of an antebellum cotillion, which would please her father. He did his best to remain in that world before 1860: Duke Johnston, descendant of Civil War General Joseph E. Johnston.
Even though the debut was a year off, she had an impulse to take the gown with her to university, let it hang in her Chapel Hill closet so she might look in on it, stroke and adore it, have it as a beacon before her. But the gown was so wide at the bottom, and surely dorm room closets were tiny and who knows what could happen to it there, when it would be safe and sound right here at home.
The second white gown, the Bridal Gown, was thought of solemnly; it would involve years of decision-making. It was, really, a life’s work. Jerilyn and her female contemporaries, having just graduated high school, had already put in reverent hours with scores of bridal magazines, begun the opinionated window-shopping, attended the society weddings like dress rehearsals for one’s own event, notes mentally taken, good things memorized so they might be borrowed or varied, atrocities eschewed. The decision about that gown, mercifully, could wait some years hence.
When she’d brought up the issue of a showstopper wedding dress with her mother, she was cautioned to whoa the horses. “You’ll do something, I would hope, with your future Carolina degree,” her mother reasoned. “Enjoy your independence. Work for a few years before you see which of the young men you met at Carolina seems destined for something besides his parents’ basement. Or, given the atmosphere at Carolina, rehab.”
Even though Jerilyn’s mother was her hero—Jerene Jarvis Johnston, director of the Jarvis Trust for American Art at the Mint Museum, respected matriarch of one of Charlotte’s first families—and her mother was almost, almost her best friend … her mother did not understand everything. Jerilyn would be very happy to find a husband quickly at Carolina and begin fomenting wedding plans no later than her senior year. She did not yearn to be part of a workplace, never failing to be somewhere for a set time in the morning, nor did she care to learn what it was to balance checkbooks and be frugal; she felt her life would be quite fine without those improving, s

“Lacerating but affectionate, as exuberant as it is shrewd, Lookaway, Lookaway is a Southern novel so sure-footed the only real question for Barnhardt is, “What took you so long?”…By the end I felt like a starving man at a buffet—sated but still hungry. That’s not really a knock. Lookaway, Lookaway is that rare thing: an excellent long novel that’s not long enough.”—Malcolm Jones, The New York Times Book Review


“It is a work that hides its craft but never its beauty, that is ambitious but never pretentious, that does not sacrifice nuance for power or power for nuance. The book’s careful, formal composition is invisible as you read, and it’s a beautiful read, sad and savagely funny, one place inexplicably contained in the other.”Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books

“A dishier array of secrets animates Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt’s big, enveloping novel about a status-conscious North Carolina family.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Scathing yet touching, this is a delicious saga of Old South meets New, a story of America lurching toward the future.”—People Magazine

“A delicious romp with a dysfunctional Southern Family.”—The Chicago Tribune

“Barnhardt’s fourth novel is a revelation: witty, savage and bighearted all at once, it is the Southern novel for the 21st century.”— Kirkus (Starred Review)

“Dixieland was never so dishy nor dysfunctional as in Barnhardt’s ribald send-up of the conflagration that ensues when Old South tradition confronts New South tackiness…Barnhardt’s satirical scorching of southern culture comes in second only to Sherman’s fiery march.”—Booklist Review

“North Carolina native Barnhardt’s frothy, satirical latest (after Show World) is Southern gothic at its most decadent and dysfunctional.”—Publishers Weekly


“Barnhardt bursts forth with a big book that has everyone bustling.”—Library Journal


“An effervescent novel.”—BookPage Review

“One helluva barn burner.”—Elle Magazine

“Sprawling, generous, delightful...I didn't want it to end. Lookaway is both dishy and literary, but like all good novels, there's a nourishing quality as well.”—The Charlotte Observer

“Barnhardt delivers a knowing, wry and delightfully catty satire...there's more than a little Tom Wolfe here, with a dash of family feuding, Pat Conroy-style...As with the best satire, though, there's a strong vein of affection.”—Star News Wilmington


Lookaway, Lookaway is a wild romp through the South, and therefore the history of our nation, written by an absolute ringmaster of fiction. Wilton Barnhardt is back baby, and he's coming at you with everything he's got. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!”—Alice Sebold, New York Times bestselling author of The Lovely Bones

“Move over, Tom Wolfe! There's a new guy in town with the ultimate—no, make that penultimate—take on the New South. Better take a powder, pour a big gin, and put your feet up before you start reading. Writing with brilliance and brio, Wilton Barnhardt has penned a hilarious satire which often has surprising depth and hits way too close to the truth.”—Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Oral History and The Last Girls

“This is a raucous novel, bursting with noise and color, immensely and immediately entertaining. And yet it's impossible not to realize how v


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