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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Tracer.pdf | Language: English

Martin, in the middle of a divorce, is seeking solace. Flying off to the neon-lit south Florida coastline, he settles in for some rest and rehabilitation with his soon-to-be ex-sister-in-law. Martin quickly settles into her bed too, creating a situation that is bound for trouble - especially when his ex-wife also appears on the scene. Cautiously, the threesome try to sort things out, engaging in varied rituals of mating, hating, forgetting, and forgiving. A funny and unforgettable novel about friends, family, and the kind of quirky, complicated relationships that will keep readers rapt through the final pages.

"... stylistically lean and hungry, shrewd in observation, full of brittle dialogue and dry wit... This is a book with afterburn." -- Chicago Tribune"A searing, startling and honest piece of work." -- Boston Globe"Frederick Barthelme is doing for the '80s what Raymond Chandler did for the '30s." -- Baltimore Sun Frederick Barthelme is the author of eleven books of fiction. His most recent is The Law of Averages: New and Selected Stories. He directs the writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi and edits Mississippi Review. He lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

2.2 (63860)
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Book details

  • PDF | 128 pages
  • Counterpoint; 1st Counterpoint pbk. ed edition (April 10, 2001)
  • English
  • 1
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By JM on July 5, 2016

    As listed

  • By Pop Bop on September 20, 2015

    It cracks me up that reviewers are all prissy and overheated about this book because it isn't as deep and plotted as "War and Peace". That's sort of the point. It's exactly the point. Like all of the best work of the Barthelme Boys this is the anti-"War and Peace".This book is small and indirect and wanders a bit. Each sentence is there for a reason and can be enjoyed and evaluated on its own. It's a grab bag of descriptions, and observations, and moments and bits. The plexiglass window on the narrator's airplane "looked as if someone had been skating on it." You don't need a plot or deeply developed characters in order to appreciate that line.This book is playful and rueful and sad in a worn out, grown-up way that appeals to me. It's not flashy, modern MFA stuff, but as quiet and worn out as the Florida Gulf Coast in which it is set. If you like that sort of thing, you'll like this.

  • By Doug Vaughn on April 26, 2000

    In this slight novella Frederick Barthelme, one of the new generation of serious Southern writers, presents a thin story that covers several days in the breakup of a marriage. Martin, the central character, leaves his home after his wife declares her intention to divorce him and goes to visit (we never quite know why)his wife's sister who runs a down-and-out motel on the Gulf shore of Florida. Almost immediately they begin an affair which, since they really know nothing about one another, is only a substitute for what each wants in life at that moment. The wife decides to come visit. Again, the motivation for this is not clear. She knows about the affair and when the sisters are together they alternately attack and support one another, leaving Martin (and, I suspect, the reader)puzzled as to what is going on and where it is headed. An interesting cast of supporting characters, including the sister's ex-husband and his eccentric brother, provide the real interest in the 'story', such as it is.There are arresting images and colorful dialoge in parts of this book, but nothing binds it all together into any kind of emotional or intellectual whole. The scenes that worked best would probably make a good minimalist play. Something like Pinter with a bit of wry humor. But as a novel, this book is just too thin in every regard and one reaches the end knowing nothing more about the central characters than when the book began. It is a promise unfulfilled.

  • By Robert Beveridge on October 13, 2000

    Frederick Barthelme, Tracer (Penguin, 1985)When you're a writer, and your brother is a writer, you have to expect the comparisons, especially if the two of you tend to float in the same water. The particular swimming pool that is eighties literature, [urinated] in on a fairly regular basis by Papa Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis, is home to the Barthelme brothers. And as much as I hate to draw obvious comparisons and judge by them, Donald's the better writer.Still, Fred is capable of turning a decent tale. His protagonist is on the cusp of divorce, staying in Florida with his soon-to-be-ex-wife's sister. The two never quite get romantically entangled, but they share bed space every once in a while, which makes things slightly uncomfortable when the wife shows up.Frederick Barthelme's strength resides in his ability to create minor characters and setting; much of what goes on around the main triangle here is memorable, in ways (as much as I hate to do it again... it's the same kind of semi-dada whimsy that inhabits Donald's more notable works). The problem is that the main plot, what little there is of it, never really gets off the ground. The main characters don't have the emotional depth to hold the minimal changes in their emotional states that Frederick is trying to use to signal the way their relationships are changing towards one another. He's also guilty of giving just enough in places to be ambiguous about what events will transpire, then cutting to the next morning without us knowing exactly what went on, and then never following up.Could've been good. Left a lot to be desired. **

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