Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet or computer – no Kindle device required. Learn more
Read instantly on your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader.
Using your mobile phone camera, scan the code below and download the Kindle app.
Enter your mobile phone or email address
By pressing ‘Send link’, you agree to Amazon's Conditions of Use.
You consent to receive an automated text message from or on behalf of Amazon about the Kindle App at your mobile number above. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Message and data rates may apply.
Jesus Out To Sea Paperback – 1 March 2009
Burke evokes people and landscape through a mixture of dialect and compelling descriptive prose, BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH
Powerful, evocative, emotional and wonderfully well written... eleven stories that are gems and written by a master, HUDDERSFIELD DAILY EXAMINER
- Publisher : Orion; 1st edition (1 March 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0753824086
- ISBN-13 : 978-0753824085
- Dimensions : 13.2 x 1.7 x 19.5 cm
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Review this product
Top reviews from other countries
The very first thing that the reader of these tomes will no doubt notice is the overriding melancholy of each. There are very few happy or even pleasant narrations among them. The other is Burke’s penchant for a multiplicity of overwrought clichés:
“Herman Stanga is full of rebop and snap-crackle-and-pop and knows how to put some boom-boom in your bam-bam, baby”
“White people were up in the balcony, mostly low-rider badasses wearing pegged drapes and needle-nose stomps and girls who could do the dirty bop and manage to look bored while they put your flopper on auto-pilot.”
But getting past this, there is an unmistakable soul that seems to permeate each of these stories…in “Winter Light,” a solitary man protects his quiet home at the entrance of a National Forest (in an almost certain section of Montana, one of Burke’s actual homes) against poachers with vengeful attitudes. “The Village,” conversely, is a very short narrative but perhaps one of the most horrifying accounts that you’ll read here. A recon mission into an assumed border town goes suddenly awry and an American soldier must make some very rapid while profoundly life altering decisions.
“The Night Johnny Ace Died” is a rambling saga about a couple of down on their luck rockabillies in 1950s Houston. They attract a rather loose following while captivating an even looser woman who joins them until they, by chance, run into the “Greaser” one night at a gig in an unnamed southern town (the “Greaser” being, of course, a very loose analogy to Elvis Pressley). The woman, predictably, leaves them for the Greaser which then see’s our principals, predictably, stumble upon hard times. The story’s ending however, has an upbeat shift, as sometimes the revelations of the past come back and actually provide retribution. And it is within this mindset that the next story, “Water People,” although at times episodic, becomes, in the very, very end, a sort of feel good story, one of the very few found in this collection.
Texas City 1947 is a sprawling, multi-layered account of spousal abuse, child abuse, retribution and, in the end, a sad redemption. “Mist” on the other hand, is a disturbing story of a woman’s battle with the recent loss of her husband who fought in Iraq. Losing her self-balance we see her then struggle with predictably common issues such as drug addiction, sexual perplexity and other inner demons.
A Season of Regret focuses on an older man who involves himself and his strong opinions in his local community:
“Last year you filed a complaint because some kids fired bottle rockets on your property. You pissed off the developers trying to build a subdivision down in the creek. You called the president (Bush the second at the time) a draft-dodging moron in print. Some might say you have adversarial tendencies.”
But he, of course, is not what he seems to be…having had a rather sinister background himself, he takes on a hostile position with some sleazy bikers who he witnesses pestering a young woman in front of a local diner. Interceding with the intent only to clear up the confrontation, the bikers, of course, are then compelled to respond with a heinous act, forcing our protagonist to also respond. And in his reaction, Burke delves into the soul of revenge, innocence and the virtual truths that we encounter but seldom reflect upon day by day.
The Molester, conversely, is a sprawling, at times discursive adventure that begins with a peculiar adult widower named “Frank” who’s seen increasingly trolling a city park near Rice University in Houston. Forming suspicious relationships with many of the local teens and youth of the area, he does so against the sudden vitriol of the new park director, an energetic fireball of a woman who immediately recognizes what he’s up to and viciously confronts him, seemingly chasing him away.
In a subtending plotline, a local park kid named Nick, a boxer in the nearby Golden Gloves gym, has been secretly guided by this “Frank” toward a fight with Angel Morales, a serious talent and major step up from Nick’s previous competition. Throughout the narrative of the fight and its ultimate meaning, we learn that the hard realities of the fight game and of life is that to get ahead, even at a seemingly low level, one must sometimes do what is undesirable for a larger purpose, with this purpose also requiring uncommon bravery to stop degenerative child molesters. In this regard, this complex, multi-layered story ultimately gives us a satisfying ending although it does leave us with many unanswered questions.
The Burning of the Flag is an intertextual referendum on bullying, patriotism and the true meaning of the American flag and its patriotic symbolism. Next, the story, When Bugsy Siegel Was a Friend of Mine becomes another drawn out expose with multiple plotlines. It features two young pre-teens who serendipitously run into a mob boss who happens to enjoy the yo-yo mastery these kids have attained. In a subplot, the two boys also try to avoid their neighbor and landlord the Dunlop’s, particularly Vernon, a boy their age and the classic bully. Discovering also that the Dunlop’s have targeted one of the more pragmatic Nuns at the Catholic school that the boys go to, Burke dramatically and emotionally provides a denouement to this story that will surely touch the hearts within all readers.
Finally the title story (and easily the most introspective and profound), Jesus Out to Sea, begins as an ode to an earlier and more cosmopolitan New Orleans. Told from the viewpoint of a Vietnam vet, he catalogues these experiences prior to the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With his lifelong pal Miles, we witness his view of the devastation from a house rooftop and small boat.
Asked during an interview following the publication of this work, Burke explained the rationale for the title, a true story about a priest who’d stayed behind in an attempt to assist the locals, many who were destitute and in severe need of assistance. Here he writes:
“The priest tried to get everybody to leave the neighborhood, but a lot of people didn’t have cars, or at least cars they could trust, and because it was still two days till payday, most people didn’t have any money either. So the priest said he was staying, too. An hour later the wind came off the Gulf and began to peel the face off South Louisiana.
This morning, I saw the priest float past the top of a live oak tree. He was on his stomach, his clothes puffed with air, his arms stretched out by his sides, like he was looking for something down in the tree.”
…Jesus Out to Sea indeed.
The ending of this precipitous tale is just as moribund, expanding upon the stark disquisition of post Katrina invectives of helplessness and defeat. I must admit that I was imminently disturbed by this story’s denouement before coming to the realization of its truth…this was undoubtedly the actual outcome for many during that soulless period where survival hinged upon self-preservation or self-sacrifice. Burke has been able to capture it here with subtlety and self-effacement that actually gave me pause…I literally had to re-read the last third of this story to grasp what he was attempting to communicate. A brilliant ending.
I realize that with having read only this one work, I hardly come qualified to expertly comment on the extensive works of James Lee Burke, but throughout this assemblage of eleven unique stories, he manifests characters and plots that immediately grab the reader for the long haul. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of the short story and to Burke fans who remain ensconced in Robicheaux…I believe that there is much here of merit for both.