By Vanessa V. Friedman
February 10, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Border Music


Like a red storm risin’ out of the west, like a twister all turnin’ and twitchin’ and yearnin’ to break out, like the dyin’ wail of the wild pig we all got in our hearts, so comes Border Music, the third novel from that self-appointed bard of the backwoods, Robert James Waller. Git along, little poodles.

The story of Texas Jack Carmine, a lovin’, fightin’, leavin’ type of a man, and his lady, Linda Lobo, a classy kind of a dame, even if Texas Jack did meet her while she was dancin’ in a topless bar (hey, she never got no breaks in this here life), and the brief time they make each other happy on Jack’s little ranch before Jack’s Vietnam-spawned demons drive her away and into the arms of a rich insurance executive, Waller’s latest attempt to clone his (inexplicably) bestselling Bridges of Madison County is as sexist and racist as the original one. In the world according to Waller, all men are Adam after the fall, and all women cardboard.

Witness Linda, distinguished primarily by her unbelievably large breasts, perfectly round and high rump, legs to make a grown man cry, and ability to articulate homegrown wisdom like, ”All women know how to shake it hard if they want to. Nature gave us that ability as a way of attracting you wonderful things called men.” Another woman, a high-class black hooker who serves as an object of fantasy, and ultimately liberation, for Jack’s poor, repressed, produce-manager uncle, doesn’t fare any better (”She would taste and smell of Africa and…long marches to misery ships that sailed for de land of cotton”). Jack, by contrast, is described lovingly as ”God’s only free-born soul,” compared to ”the day itself” and ”a high-strung bow,” and fleshed out by numerous telling details: He doesn’t trust banks, keeps all his ”serious money” in a shoulder holster, loves stroking women’s hair, and whispers sweet somethings during sex.

The novel is a mishmash of cliches, nonsensical sentences (”We’re all on the same ball of twine, all ridin’ one goddamn single arrow out through wherever we’re all goin’, which is nowhere”), and dropped g’s. It’s the literary equivalent of a velvet Elvis painting, from its synthetic story line to its connect-the-dots characters. Or, as Waller might put it, it’s like icin’ the cotton candy and lettin’ your mouth git ahead of your brain. F

Border Music

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