Tito Perdue has been described as "America's lost literary genius" and as "a reactionary snob". Neither conservative nor liberal, but a reactionary radical, Perdue has written some of the best satire on contemporary America, and he has put his criticism in the form of novels which can hold their own with the best postmodern fiction

Reuben-Cover-Web
Tito Perdue, Reuben, Radix, 2014.


www.titoperdue.com/




Under the tutelage of Lee Pefley, Reuben learned what must be done. And when the time came, he left Alabama and took up the task of conquering the world, or at least the Occidental share of it. This novel is a chronicling of Reuben s necessary, great, and terrible deeds.

The unforgettable character of Lee Pefley embodies a paradox that some of those who seem by today s standards to be the most acerbic, the most misanthropic, the most irrelevant and out of touch may secretly be the greatest idealists of all. - Derek Turner



Lee Pefley, the author's alter ego, has one last trick up his sleeve. He's facing eternity after a lifetime of living by his own stern code of honoring the best of Western civilization and refusing to buckle under to the barbarians. Lee takes in a diamond in the rough named Reuben and whips him into shape physically and mentally. Armed with Pefley's hates and reading list, young Reuben goes out to "conquer the world" - or at least "the occidental share of it."

It's a depraved world Reuben takes on, and by the end of his life, has pretty much managed to reclaim much of Western civilization, punish those who sought to wreck it (with special attention to their Quislings), and reshape the economy and culture to support a livable, more humane, more noble country. Perdue has a wicked sense of humor and a stinging style of writing that had me thinking and chuckling as I read it. Better than "Confederacy of Dunces," with a much more interesting protagonist. Highly recommended! - Mike Tuggle 



Reuben, Tito Perdue’s eighth published novel, is by far the 75-year-old author’s most subversive, incendiary, and defiantly reactionary work yet. It is bound to offend. It is sure to provoke. It is an apt and needful epic for our times and for our kind.
The story begins in present-day rural north-central Alabama. Reuben-a young, “uplander” bumpkin with a poorly-forged prosthetic metal foot-stumbles upon the humble estate of the excessively eccentric Leland (Lee) Pefley and his kind-hearted entomologist wife, Judy Pefley (a recurring and prominent personage in Perdue’s oeuvre). Lee is bitter and world-weary, curmudgeonly, and a bit transgressive. Situated atop a high ridge, he spends many an hour at “the Edge,” peering through his telescope down at the city of Birmingham, cursing the hideousness of the city itself and the ignorance and vulgarity of its inhabitants.
Lee Pefley, however, is also a brilliant visionary with a boundless love of knowledge and an inordinately profound understanding of the nature of beauty.
Lee, ab initio, wants nothing to do with an oafish, six foot six “hazel-eyed churl” who walked into his life, but Judy’s gentle cajolery persuades Lee to put the churl up in the barn, put him to work doing farm chores, and introduce the boy to the joys of book-learning.
Under the Spartan tutelage of his thorny mentor, Reuben — who knew nothing of classical education when he first arrived — is soon immersed in a multiverse of languages and literature, hard science, high art, and philosophy. Lee discovers that “the vagrant” possesses both an inborn proclivity for science, and an innate aesthetic sensibility.
Leland also imparts to his acolyte his own thoroughly elitist, anti-cultural Marxist, anti-feminist, anti-post-modern philosophy. Lee, an inveterate philhellenist, aches for an age such as that of ancient Athens, though he would settle for the antebellum South. Or, at the very least, the United States circa 1950.
When winter comes, Judy is terrified. Feeding “the vagabond” all this time (his appetite for food is like his appetite for knowledge) has depleted the couple of much of their savings. In desperation, Judy takes an office job in town, working for “fourth-rate philistines.” Horrified, Lee sends “the varlet” to Atlanta on a clandestine “little mission,” the specifics of which are never revealed. After a few days, however, “the varmint” returns with a valise filled with several thousand dollars in cash, a healthy cut of which he keeps for himself. The balance is enough to end Judy’s drudgery.
Reuben adopts the Pefley surname as well as Lee’s uncompromising worldview. And, after months of intensely concentrated learning, and with sufficient enough cash in his vest pocket, the lad leaves the farm determined to heed Lee’s words: “Take history in your teeth and turn the world upside down.”
Thus begins Reuben’s down-going (into Birmingham). It is his first visit to a city and his first encounter with Negroes. The foul-mouthed, gold-chain wearing “youths,” one of whom had dyed his hair strawberry red, try to rob Rubin. 
He reached for his gun, Reuben, but then in a sudden excess of delight took the head of the strawberry boy in both hands, brought it low, and smashed his left (not his right) knee into the boy’s pre-historical face. Silence followed.
Through a series of mishaps and misadventures, he is twice thrust into the city jail for various misdemeanors, and left impecunious from sundry questionable and excessive jail fines. Obliged, then, to seek gainful employment, Reuben takes a job as a warehouse worker at a paint manufacturer, but is soon promoted to a receipt-managing office job, and thence to the accounting department when his supervisors learn the young man is “a literate person and able to function in three languages.”
Reuben, at the age of twenty-five, rapidly rises in the ranks of any organization or institution with which he affiliates himself. 
[He] had enrolled part-time in a branch campus of the state university. … His knowledge of the humanities was already extremely good, wherefore he was given a battery of tests and granted more than half the undergraduate credits needed for a degree. He studied chemistry (his favorite branch of knowledge) and by July he had been partnered with a (Chinese) professor whom he disliked not quite enough to throw away the advantages of the connection.
The university offers Reuben a relatively generous grant which allows him to quit his job and spend more time at the library. Then, the California Institute of Technology “recruits” Reuben, and he receives his Ph.D. at Caltech that summer.
Then one day in the year 2036, an overly animated drinking acquaintance slips Reuben a note on a napkin indicating a meeting where he, Reuben, “could expect to be enthusiastically received.”
Reuben attends the conclave, a covert gathering of rich reactionaries who refer to themselves as The Station: a kind of counter-Illuminati in infancy. The Station has plans. Grand plans.Grand global plans. And so does Reuben. He becomes a member, and is soon counted among the top brass.
Reuben, by now, is a millionaire. At thirty-years of age he owns five lucrative patents; earns a  six-figure salary that, happily, promises to keep increasing;  and he gets back increasingly fatter and fatter returns from multiple opportunistic investments made based on his inside knowledge of advances in technology.
As his wealth, power, and influence all steadily accrue, so does his worldly wisdom, and with it his ever-ripening wrath.
Then, one night, on his walk back from a performance of Parsifal, he buys a newspaper. 
His attention fell upon an article that was to prove the greatest interest to him, which is to say the story of a nine-year-old White girl (her photo was appended) who’d been raped and killed by a Salvadoran immigrant. Twice he read the article through to the end, confirming that the killer had been given a suspended sentence by grace of a Jewish lawyer playing to a jury of northeastern women.
His mind … kept reverting back to the newspaper, the child, but especially the lawyer. He belonged, that man, to a highly effective crowd that already had manipulated the White majority down to nearly nothing, while expecting, one must suppose, to be better respected by Latin Americans.
Reuben researches the lawyer, then visits his office, pretending to be a potential client with a potentially juicy lawsuit: his little   boy had almost drowned in his extremely negligent and extremely wealthy neighbor’s non-gated swimming pool. Provided they go forthwith to photograph the area before the neighbor makes improvements, it should be an open and shut case. With this ruse, he lures the lawyer. 
Dashing to Reuben’s well-kept car, they drove top speed down Martin Luther King (Senior) Avenue before turning off onto MLK Jr., a lightly traveled thoroughfare that led out of town. … There was nothing in that car except for the two men, the two men and a shovel, a shovel and a coat hanger, a coat hanger and a pair of pliers, pliers and a mint-new blowtorch weighing no more than six or seven pounds.
At The Station’s twenty-seventh convocation, Reuben is enthused by the keynote speaker’s vision, and the group’s ultimate aim: “a Confederacy of the Northern Hemisphere,” a long-term project to incorporate ninety-one percent of the world’s White people (and perhaps a few Japanese) into a single polity.”
Their next major strategy — intended to eventually achieve the White polity — was to take over the Chicago-based Aspinosa Television Network. After all, “The masses will believe anything if only it be repeated often enough by good-looking people on television.” 
It required Reuben just more than a month to remove the egalitarian propaganda that infected the existing programming and replace it, on a phased basis, with crime dramas in which the good people were not always strong women of a feminist bent, or always black…
Then, one day, Reuben receives an unexpected phone call. The Station has unanimously selected him as chairman. He immediately goes to work. He first develops a huge pipeline — hundreds of miles long — called “The Gyre,” which runs down the southern border into Jalisco, Mexico and other southern parts. The pipeline “had enough circumference to admit four ordinary-grade human beings marching side by side”. Through it he forces a great part of the country’s swarthy immigrants (legal and illegal). Reuben’s intention, “by means of threats and inducements” is to export “all those who entered the country since Johnson’s immigration bill of 1965.” 
Reuben next turned his attention to the some sixty million African-American Negroes, a lapsed population sustained on the naiveté of the authentic population. Some lived in cities, some did not. Some went willingly into the pipeline. Some did not. Meantime, his agents had unearthed large numbers of feminists, New York lawyers, several hundred necrophiliacs, twenty-eight cannibals, and one individual whose proclivities lay outside the reach of a standard dictionary.
Reuben then acquires Canada, unites with Eastern Europe, and engages in a series of tempestuous negotiations with the Russians in an effort to have them join the Confederation. He also demands and receives “a full retrospective refund from Tel Aviv,” to pay back all the tens of billions of dollars America had given to Israel over the decades (though not without surviving several assassination attempts).
Thus begins Reuben’s chairmanship of The Station.
So, in all, does Rueben manage to turn the world around? And what do The Fates have in store for him in the end?
Reuben reminds one of Ayn Rand’s John Galt: super-talented, intelligent, and wealthy, with a strong vision of what the future should be like and the will and means to carry it out. Unlike Rand’s, his vision of the future is strongly racially based. And although Mr. Perdue spares us the gory details, it is quite clear that the revolution he has in mind will not occur without breaking some eggs — quite a few eggs. (See Greg Johnson’s “The Cleanse” for a proposal for “a well-planned, orderly, and humane process of ethnic cleansing.”)
One of The Churl’s favorite historical personages is Empedocles, an ancient Greek pre-Socratic thinker: a real man, but a man shrouded in lore. According to legend, the sage plunged himself into the active volcano of Mount Etna, in Sicily, in order to prove himself immortal.
Empedocles, like Rueben, was both a man of science and a philosopher. And, let us just say that, like that eccentric Grecian of old, Rueben’s life and his great and terrible deeds, and his surmised death, will henceforth forever be the stuff of myth. - A. W. MacCrinnan


Tito Perdue is a self-described “problematic author” and “cultural reactionary.” His novels are bitter and amusing accounts of a Western civilization that seems hell-bent on suicide. But that culture is haunted by Perdue’s literary alter ego, Lee Pefley, a man who acts as both a Jeremiah and cultural guerilla fighter.
Pefley’s sorties apparently arise out of pure outrage, with no greater aim than to verbally or physically pummel his targets. But there’s more to Pefley’s often violent outbursts than expressions of rage. I think Derek Turner of the Quarterly Review was on to something when, commenting on Tito Perdue’s works, he observed that “the most misanthropic, the most ‘irrelevant’ and ‘out of touch’ may secretly be the greatest idealists of all.” In his many battles, Lee Pefley confronts the remnants of Western civilization with blunt reminders of what it used to be. His goal is both outrageous and reactionary: to rekindle a dying flame.
In Reuben, Lee Pefley is facing eternity after a lifetime of living by his own stern code of honoring the best of Western civilization and refusing to buckle under to the barbarians that seek its demise. But Lee has one last trick up his sleeve. He takes in a diamond in the rough named Reuben and whips the young man into shape physically and mentally. Armed with Pefley’s greatest weapons, his numerous hates and lengthy reading list, young Reuben goes out to “conquer the world” – or at least “the occidental share of it.”
After run-ins with the police, Reuben manages to find a job and secure a formal education. He gains admission to the California Institute of Technology, which turns out to be “good for his career and bad for everything else.”
That line was written by someone familiar with the scam of higher education in contemporary America.
It’s a depraved world Reuben takes on. While residing in California, the simple act of reading the daily news, with reports of “how a homosexual was offended in South Dakota,” and that marriage has been expanded to include unions of more than two people, makes him vomit.
Here’s how the author describes the sunken state of life in the America of the near future:
A golden age of cretinism, followed closely by hydrocephaly, congenital schizophrenia, and other concomitants of final decadence. It was as if viruses and bacteria had found the specific weaknesses of a people given over heart and soul to equality, the most fatal of social memes. Or rather, it was the worst people who now were deemed the best, as testified by newspapers and television.
But Reuben has been prepared by a master fighter to strike back at this mad world. As Hunter S. Thompson would say, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” And that’s exactly what Reuben does, turning the system’s own irrationality against it. When he encounters irresponsible and degenerate individuals, Reuben uses his massive physical strength to dole out punishment in the form of cartoonish violence. Such behavior earns Reuben various epithets: scoundrel, varlet, vagrant, knave, miscreant.
In between thrashings, Reuben helps organize and lead a circle of fellow reactionaries, and primes the pump of counterrevolution through a series of bizarre investments, including a “highly leveraged program of short-selling the country’s art market index fund.” Reuben manages to slowly gain access to the machinery of power. One of his reforms is to eliminate the country’s excessive supply of schools. This has a benign and surprisingly quick payoff: “Now, almost at once, the country became more cheerful, the result of young people’s rescue from the sneers and curdled sophistication that came from imagining they had acquired an education.”
Reuben, with his clear vision of what he wants, his boundless energy, and ability to raise billions by manipulating individuals and institutions too corrupt and enfeebled to know better, successfully kicks off an “invisible revolution.” To restore Western civilization, he has Wagnerian opera houses built, brings back classical music, and places limits on the amount of television that can be broadcast. In the end, Reuben manages to wean people of their addiction to indulgence and boredom and prod them back onto their front porches and yards.
By the end of his life, Reuben has pretty much realized Lee Pefley’s quest. He gives Western civilization a fighting chance by punishing or exiling those who sought to wreck it, and reforming the economy and culture to support a livable, more humane, more noble country.
Tito Perdue has a wicked sense of humor and a stinging style of writing that had me thinking and chuckling as I read it. It’s better than Confederacy of Dunces, with a much more manly and unpredictable protagonist. -


Tito Perdue: Morning Crafts (Softcover)

Tito Perdue, Morning Crafts, Arktos Media, 2012.

Thirteen-year-old Leland Pefley was minding his own business, enjoying a day's fishing near his father's farm in Tennessee, when the odd, well-dressed and well-spoken man from the city appeared, inviting Lee to accompany him to a more interesting place. Out of curiosity, Lee followed him, and found himself hustled off to a strange, rustic academy in the wilderness with a group of other boys, all of whom had been semi-abducted as he himself had been. None of them knew why they were there. Some believed they had been brought there to be murdered, or worse. The Academy, it turned out, is an actual school, run by eccentric, curmudgeonly teachers obsessed with training an elite band of boys who will grow up with a passion to preserve some vestige of genuine culture amidst the tide of democratic, egalitarian degeneracy which they see ruining the modern world. To this end, the boys' heads are stuffed, day in and day out, with mathematics, Ancient Greek and classical music, among other subjects. Rankling at first under the teachers' bizarre, authoritarian methods, Lee sticks around, knowing that he can slip away at any time he wants. But, for some reason, he doesn't, and before long, he finds that his teachers are starting to make quite a lot of sense... Tito Perdue was born in 1938 in Chile, the son of an electrical engineer from Alabama who was working there at the time. The family returned to Alabama in 1941, where Tito graduated from the Indian Springs School, a private academy near Birmingham, in 1956. He then attended Antioch College in Ohio for a year, before being expelled for cohabitating with a female student, Judy Clark. In 1957, they were married, and remain so today. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1961, and spent some time working in New York City, an experience which garnered him his life-long hatred of urban life. After holding positions at various university libraries, Tito has devoted himself full-time to writing since 1983. This is his seventh novel to be published to date, many of which deal with the life and times of Leland Pefley.


At the end of After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre concludes that modern civilization is bankrupt, and modern intellectual and political traditions are incapable of understanding and rectifying this decadence. He does not, however, counsel generalized pessismism, for once modernity expires of its own corruptions a new age will begin. Thus he recommends we follow the example of Late Antiquity, when
men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead — often not recognizing fully what they were doing — was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained, so that morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. . . . What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. . . . This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they have already been governing us for quite some time. . . . We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another — doubtless very different — St. Benedict.
I first read these words as a college undergraduate, and they made a deep impression on me. One sunny afternoon, I bought a copy of After Virtue at a used bookstore in Portland, Oregon, then embarked on a long train journey, during which I read it cover-to-cover. Much of MacIntyre’s argument struck me then and now as relativistic and sophistical. But MacIntyre’s final words resonated with my longstanding and steadily deepening conviction that Western civilization was heading toward a collapse. At that moment, I thought of creating a kind of monastery/college/communue in a remote location, in which Western civilization could be preserved not just in dead letters but in living minds, passed on from teacher to student until a new culture could emerge around them.
This idea has stayed with me, in one form or another, ever since, and it received its most adequate formulation when I discovered the Traditionalism of René Guénon and Julius Evola. In The Crisis of the Modern World, Guénon actually proposes the creation of a secret initiatic society to preserve the cultural treasures of the West through the crash of the current Dark Age and into the beginning of the next civilizational cycle.
One reason I found Tito Perdue’s novel Morning Crafts so appealing is that it is set against the backdrop such an intellectual ark, created to shelter the treasures of the West through the storms and deluge to come.
Tito Perdue was born in 1938 in Chile to American parents with deep Southern roots. His family moved back to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War, settling in Alabama. He took degrees in English literature, European history, and library science. He worked in the Midwest and Northeast as a bookkeeper, a library administrator, and an insurance underwriter. In 1982, he took an early retirement and returned to the South to write full-time, which he has done ever since. He has authored more than a dozen novels, seven of which have been published, Morning Crafts being the most recent.
Perdue’s first novel, Lee, was published in 1991, to widely positive reviews. His next two novels, The New Austerities and Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture, appeared in 1994. The strong elitism and misanthropy of Perdue’s novels, however, made his work increasingly hard to place in politically-correct mainstream publishing circles. Thus his next novel, The Sweet-Scented Manuscript appeared only in 2004, followed by Fields of Asphodel in 2007.
Since then, Perdue’s books have appeared from New Right publishers: The Node came out in 2011 from Nine-Banded Books; Morning Crafts came out in 2012 from Arktos; and Washington Summit Publishers will publish his next novel, Reuben, sometime in 2013.
Tito Perdue is America’s finest living novelist. His genre is Southern Gothic, and his style is magical realist. His main themes are the nature of the good life and the decline of Western civilization. With the exception of The Node, all of his published novels (and most of the unpublished ones) relate episodes in the life of Leland Pefley, beginning two generations back with his grandfather and extending into the afterlife.
Lee Pefley is something of an alter-ego of Perdue himself: like Perdue, he is born circa 1938; like Perdue, he marries a woman named Judy; like Perdue, he seems to be a lover of nature, of Western civilization, and of a simple but materially comfortable form of life; like Perdue, he becomes an increasingly angry and alienated as the civilization he loves falls apart around him, being replaced by urban sprawl, junk culture, and tasteless, degraded material opulence.
Morning Crafts is the best place to begin the saga of Lee Pefley. Young Lee is introduced at the end of Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture, but the book is primarily the story of his grandfather. Morning Crafts is the first installment of Lee’s story published so far, although there is an unpublished prequel about Lee, aged 11, called The Smut Book.
The novel is set at the beginning of the 1950s. Young Lee Pefley, aged 13, is fishing near his father’s Tennessee farm when a well-dressed stranger from the city beguiles him into his car and abducts him. The kidnapper drops Lee off in a remote location in rural Alabama, with a number of other abducted boys. The boys, of course, fear that they are to be molested or killed.
But their captors — Goldman, Arnsdorf, Spivey, and others — have something far more outlandish in mind: an experiment in education. Using shady sources of funding, they have assembled a group of kidnapped boys and a vast library of stolen books on a remote farm to preserve the Western cultural tradition by passing it on to a new generation. Lee quickly determines that he can leave any time, but he decides to stay, because he discovers that he enjoys the life of the mind. His teachers, especially their leader, Goldman, not only impart languages, history, art, and science. They also teach a radically elitist and hierarchical critique of modernity. The core of the curriculum seems classical and pagan. But as far as their neighbors know, they are running a Bible Academy. This kind of dissembling, however, is also part of the curriculum. The educated man must always seek to blend in with the demos, lest they persecute him.
It all sounds vaguely Traditionalist. But it has its sinister aspects. Aside from the fact that the students were kidnapped, the books were stolen, and the whole operation was carried on under piously fraudulent pretenses, students are divided into Alphas, Betas, and Gammas, and Gammas basically are treated as slave labor for the farm. One boy actually dies from overwork. They are kept drugged. Others are simply sent away, which takes on increasingly sinister connotations. At the end, it is strongly implied that they are to be killed. But this does not seem to bother Lee and the other Alpha boys, who are entirely absorbed not just with learning but with competing with one another, their insecurities and jealousies masterfully manipulated by their teachers. I think that Perdue includes these unsettling elements to communicate that the aims of the teachers are so important that all more mundane moral considerations fall by the wayside. To save our civilization, we may indeed have to resort to extreme measures.
To my ears, the name Goldman has sinister connotations as well. I do not know why Perdue chose it, but it brings to mind three Jews who were associated with liberal education in the 20th century: Mortimer Adler, Leo Strauss, and Jacob Klein. Klein was for many years the dean of St. John’s College in Annapolis, where he presided over a “Great Books” program that joins together the best possible curriculum and the worst possible pedagogy: Mortimer Adler married, as it were, to Maria Montessori. Klein was a schoolmate and life-long friend of Leo Strauss. Strauss taught at St. John’s at the end of his career, and many of his students found work there. Thus St. John’s (both in Annapolis and Santa Fe) has a cultish atmosphere that is generically Jewish, with a dominant Straussian, neoconservative strand. The nameless rustic Alabama Academy comes off as a pocket parody of St. John’s. When the locals and the police begin to get suspicious, Goldman and company simply torch the place and decamp to Mexico.
Morning Crafts is a classic Bildungsroman, a story of the awakening of the mind. One of the most effective scenes in the book is when Lee, having grown haughty with his knowledge, visits a remote Alabama cabin, much like the place in which he grew up. It is inhabited by a young man and his mother or grandmother. They offer him their hospitality, and Lee enjoys their simple food. He appreciates the beauty of their hand-made quilts and birdhouses, their ability to combine natural simplicity and material comfort. But the man has no way to appreciate Lee. His world consists of smoke, drink, food, hunting, and whores. As he drinks himself into a stupor, he keeps insisting that Lee has been “ruint” by his education. But this is simply not true: the educated man, especially a man of refined taste, can appreciate the simple life and even live it. Lee feels great tenderness for these collard-eaters, because he is one of them — or was. Back at the Academy, they also live off the land. They live simply, but they live well. Men of the mind can appreciate unintellectual things, even if they are beneath them. But unintellectual men cannot return the favor: they are blind to the things above them and incapable of loving them. This is why the wise must rule. But only if the wise who have a cultural and organic connection to the rest of the society, which brings us back to the Goldman problem.
My general preference is for tightly plotted novels. Perdue’s work, however, is more episodic and chronicle-like, which makes sense, since he is telling the story of a life spread over a number of books. Morning Crafts is a succession of short chapters, vignettes separated from one another by indeterminate spans of time, leaving it to the reader to put it all together. But it nevertheless works because of Perdue’s fascinatingly drawn characters and entrancingly beautiful writing. I have not taken such sheer delight in language since the last time I read Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae or Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude – and that is saying a lot, since it is my favorite novel of all time. I would have stopped every ten minutes and read something aloud, if I had someone to read it to.
Jonathan Bowden once said that the overwhelming decadence of our culture does not mean that the creativity of our race has disappeared. It has simply been marginalized and disprivileged. Thus there must be great white novelists, painters, poets, composers, and other creators out there. We simply have to find them, publish them, and promote them. We have to create new cultural spaces where the greatness of our people can flourish. Tito Perdue is proof of this. Chased from the mainstream, he continued to labor in solitude until the New Right finally caught up with him. He has now found a community of writers, publishers, and readers who love his work and wish to share it with the world. You, dear reader, need to join them. I cannot recommend Morning Crafts and his other novels highly enough. - Greg Johnson


The_node_large


Tito Perdue, The Node, Nine-Banded Books, 2011.



Welcome to the future. The 21st century has come of age and it seems that everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. Propelled beyond the brink by environmental catastrophe, by cultural degeneration and the foretold collapse of the monetary system, the American landscape has given way to a postmodern picaresque. In such a world, where crime has been normalized, sex has been mechanized, and where ethnic enclaves equipped with inscrutable bio-engineered surveillance gadgetry vie for the last remnants of power, one hapless pilgrim stands athwart the apocalyptic tide. Emboldened by dim nostalgia and quixotic resolve, this man -- our hero, as we may insist -- will marshal a fractious retinue of co-ethnic subversives (the maligned Cauks ) to establish a stronghold, a redoubt, a community ... a Node. It remains only to be seen whether the seeds of renewal might yet find purchase, or be left to ash.

Neither conservative nor liberal, but a reactionary radical, Tito Perdue has written some of the best satire on contemporary America, and he has put his criticism in the form of novels which can hold their own with the best postmodern fiction. -Thomas Fleming



There is joy and proportion in the author's references, store of words, manipulation of images, jumbling of tenses and senses, in-jokes, his verbal and even typographical games. Behind his writing one senses the existence of a wide, wild hinterland bordered by volcanoes and with a staffage of perfect people, animals and cottages ornee. He never succumbs to portentousness, always a temptation for doomsayers... It would be a mistake to see Perdue as mere nostalgist, lost in some reverie of unrecapturable youth extrapolated into Spenglerian teleology. He looks forward almost as often as he looks back, in hope of 'a globe of a hundred thousand societies', in which people 'care more about people than stuff.' - Derek Turner



Perdue displays a wicked sense of humor that lashes modern-day culture --Conservative Heritage Times


Tito Perdue’s The Node is a futuristic, dystopian satire on our anti-white system with an explicitly White Nationalist and New Rightist message.
Satire is easy – just pick a few trends and extrapolate to absurdity. Any idiot can do that, and quite a few have. Which, of course, means that good satire is very hard to do and hard to find. The Node, however, is satire of the highest order: a richly textured, endlessly imaginative, and unfailingly funny vision of a future we are working to avoid. There are surprises and delights on every page. But, like any important discovery or work of the imagination, what seems surprising at first glance seems inevitable upon reflection.
The world of The Node is our world, around the middle of this century when whites will become a minority, unless we do something to stop it. Political correctness, anti-white discrimination, feminism, and the unchecked immigration and reproduction of non-whites are rampant. Whites as a race are being replaced by prolific non-whites. White men are being socially displaced by white women. Men are infantilized and emasculated. Women are “strong,” which means loud and vulgar, as well as petty and tyrannical.
Society is all about providing equality and inclusion for under-represented, historically marginalized groups, which means: everybody but white men. But instead of creating a utopia of equality and inclusion, society is rigidly hierarchical, with the highest positions awarded to the people with the most defects and the least to offer, people who seethe with neurotic resentment even as they wallow in unearned privileges. White men, being the bottom of the social hierarchy, are subjected to countless indignities by their social superiors.
Fashions are grotesque and undignified, involving forms of body modification and mutilation that cannot be discarded when they go out of style. Expressive individualism reigns, and everyone must conform to its dictates. Pop singers, athletes, and politicians are revered, especially if they are non-white. Sexual promiscuity and perversion are lionized. Literature is crap, but people don’t read anyway. They instead watch televised sports and tendentious propaganda dramas. Music is just insolent noise.
Although the cultural sphere is entirely Leftist, the economic system is hyper-oligarchical and capitalist. Nature has been ravaged by pollution: the weather is colder; sunlight is lethal; countless species are extinct. The US has an essentially Third World economy, spewing out cheap plastic junk for vulgar morons. The dollar is worthless, and the currency of choice is the Chinese yuan. The endless, sprawling cities are filthy, impoverished, racially and ethnically segmented, crime-ridden, and chaotic. The United States is still bogged down in senseless wars and police actions around the globe. Still, it’s all supposed to be “good for the economy,” as the characters never tire of reminding us.
The Node is unique among Perdue’s seven published novels because it is not part of the metanarrative of Lee Pefley, the author’s semi-autobiographical alter ego. Instead, the nameless 44-year-old protagonist of The Node is simply referred to as “our boy” or “the novice.” One day, he wanders off his Tennessee farm after a few years of seclusion—during which things have gotten dramatically worse—and ends up in the city. There he happens upon a “node”: a fortified enclave of racially-conscious “cauks” (Caucasians) who have banded together for mutual aid and defense and something more.
Nodes, of course, are parts of networks, and the ultimate aim of the network is to “turn the world around,” i.e., to establish a white homeland in North America, where our race can perpetuate itself and white civilization can be preserved and perhaps even revivified. As the term “novice” hints, the Nodes are organized as a hierarchical, initiatic, quasi-religious order. The Nodes were created by a very different St. Benedict, “the Master,” Larry Schneider, for very different ends. The Nodes thus combine the culturally preservationist function of the rustic Academy of Morning Crafts with specifically political, even revolutionary aims.
Schneider’s emphasis on high culture and genetic and cultural diversity have an unmistakably “New Right” air. He foresees “a globe of a hundred thousand societies, each following a trajectory of its own, and each becoming more and more unique as time goes on. Diversity I call it” (p. 241). Schneider does not, however, envision peaceful coexistence with the current system, but he thinks that peace is overrated and that the best moral qualities of a people are stirred by war or its moral equivalent.
Education and high culture should be the preserves of the intellectual and creative elites, not dumbed down for the masses, who are more interested in material than spiritual existence. As in Morning Crafts and his other books, Perdue believes that the good for all men rests on the foundation of Hobbit-like material comfort, emphasizing wholesomeness, simplicity, and craftsmanship. Some build lives of the mind upon these foundations, but most do not. Since the cultured can appreciate the simple life, but simple people cannot appreciate higher culture, political power should be concentrated in the hands of the cultured and wise for the good of all.
The portrayal of the Nodists is a wry satire on White Nationalists and racially-aware conservatives. At 44, “our boy” is a young whipper-snapper. Most of the other Nodists are old men who combine awareness of the most important matter of all – the threat to our race and what is necessary to preserve it – with various forms of antiquarianism and crankery. There are few women, even fewer nubile and attractive ones, which is a constant source of friction among the men, who naturally think and talk about reproducing with them, but never get around to it. Naturally, the Nodists are a product of the society they wish to destroy, often displaying shocking degrees of indoctrination and bad taste, not to mention alcoholism, loutishness, and unreliability, which much be compassionately indulged to attain their aims – and suppressed if they interfere.
The plot of the novel is rather simple: after a period of education at the Node, our boy leads a number of Nodists into the wilderness to establish a new Node, his travels providing us with a guided tour of dystopia and a few lessons in leadership and community building. As in Morning Crafts, Perdue quite casually indicates that a certain amount of ruthlessness and force may be necessary and therefore justified to save our race. If that end does not justify the means, what else could?
The science-fiction elements of The Node are handled in a particularly droll way. A device called the “escrubilator” is casually mentioned on practically every page, but it is never really defined or described. It seems to be a weapon as well as a telephone; they are machines, but they also seem to have minds of their own. They go through as many real and specious permutations and upgrades as cell phones, until the whole technology is recalled and, well, scrubbed.
The most amusing trait of the escrubilator is that the reader simply cannot form a picture of it. It is as unrepresentable as the incident in Gogol’s “The Nose,” when the protagonist sees his nose leaving town disguised as a civil servant. “Gun porn” being one of the more tiresome traits of Right-wing novels, we should be grateful that the unrepresentability of the escrubilator makes “escrubilator porn” impossible. Although at one point, the protagonist discovers that some escrubilators have crept off do to naughty things in private.
I highly recommend The Node. At 258 pages, it is a quick, highly-entertaining read. Perdue’s wry humor had me smiling at every page, with an average of one audible laugh every seven pages: all told, an excellent return on my $12. Tito Perdue is our finest living novelist, proof positive that the tradition of visionary Right-wing fiction that includes D. H. Lawrence, Knut Hamsun, and Wyndham Lewis lives on. The Node, like all good satire, is a deeply life-affirming piece of literature, for if we can laugh at evil, we have already defeated it, in our own minds at least. - Greg Johnson


Tito Perdue has been described as "America's lost literary genius" (New York Press) and as "a reactionary snob" (Publisher's Weekly). Originally released in 1991 under the estimable Four Walls Eight Windows imprint, Perdue's first published novel, Lee, has since become a cult classic. Notably, it introduced Perdue's enduring anti-hero (and presumed alter-ego), Leland Pefley, a dyspeptic, cane-wielding misanthrope at war with the modern world. "Lee's language is vitriolic and hallucinatory," wrote a critic for The New York Times Book Review, who further praised the book as "a portrait both exceedingly strange and troubling."
In describing Perdue's work as "troubling," this early critic displayed unwitting prescience. For as Perdue's literary career has come to bloom in the years since Lee was published, so has his reputation as a problematic political reactionary whose avowed worldview is none-too-easily reconciled with the prevailing sensibilities of contemporary cultural gatekeepers. While Lee's abiding nostalgia for antebellum folkways and inherited Western tradition may be taken in stride so long as the the veneer of comically situated satire is preserved, some critics seem disarmed -- or troubled -- to discover beneath Perdue's most trenchent and inegalitarian prose the form of an all-too sincere lament. As the line between author and subject has blurred, the fictional landscape that once seemed so wonderfully peculiar and human and alive has thus been colored by suspicion, leaving status-conscious critics with few options. One option, obviously, is to call the author a snob. Another tack is to softcoat one's appreciation in sufficiently disclamatory verbaige, perhaps with a few contextual references to other problematic writers of import. Knut Hamsun might be close enough for roadwork, and Houellebecq is fashionably on call for precisely these occasions. Easiest, I fear, is to ignore the work altogether.                    
But let's hope Tito Perdue has yet to be consigned to the margins, because I am very proud to announce that his sixth novel, a brilliant dystopian satire called The Node, will be released by Nine-Banded Books later this month.
Here's the squib:
Welcome to the future. The 21st century has come of age and it seems that everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. Propelled beyond the brink by environmental catastrophe, by social degeneration and the foretold collapse of the monetary system, the American landscape has given way to a postmodern picaresque. In such a world, where crime has been normalized, sex has been mechanized, and where ethnic enclaves – equipped with inscrutable bioengineered surveillance gadgetry – vie for the last remnants of power, one hapless pilgrim stands athwart the apocalyptic tide. Emboldened by dim nostalgia and quixotic resolve, this man – our hero, as we may insist – is entrusted to mobilize a fractious retinue of co-ethnic subversives (the maligned “Cauks”) to establish a stronghold, a redoubt, a community, a last ditch … a Node. It remains only to be seen whether the seeds of renewal may yet find purchase, or be left to ash.
The speculative form may represent a superficial departure for Perdue, who is best known for his mystically suffused explorations of decaying southern heritage, but longtime fans will the relish the idiosyncrasies and strange humor that have long distinguished Perdue's writing. The Node is engrossing, sly, subversive, and wickedly funny. Read it now or catch up later. - hooverhog.typepad.com/hognotes/2011/11/tito-perdues-the-node.html


Derek Turner' review here  (pdf)


Lee










Tito Perdue, Lee, Overlook Books, 1991.
Read an excerpt below



Lee--Leland Pefley, to be precise--is a crusty, belligerent, and fearless septuagenarian who is filed with disgust for the unwashed, uneducated, and unrefined masses. With his wife Judy recently dead, and being not long for the world himself, Lee has downsized his life to only a trunk full of books in a rented room. A leader without followers, Lee attacks all visible signs of the temporal world he abhors, replacing it in his heart and mind with a gorgeous and worthy universe of his own making. His world is influenced by visions and peopled with perfect souls. And in Perdue's stunning first novel, these two worlds come together brilliantly. In the tradition of early Faulkner and the novels of Cormac McCarthy, this extraordinary Southern novel describes the premonitions, nausea, and paranoia of a solitary man hastening toward death.
Originally published several years ago to much acclaim, Lee is here available for the first time in paperback, accompanying the simultaneous hardcover publication of Perdue's new Fields of Asphodel.



In this arty first novel, the eponymous protagonist, a relentlessly cynical, misanthropic septuagenarian, returns home to Alabama after some 60 years up North dealing with "children, money, jobs--life's rubbish." Clad in black, with black spectacles, onetime arsonist Lee, who suffers from hemorrhoids and rashes, viciously beats strangers with his cane. When he's not conversing with the wraithlike Judy, a shadowy companion of varying age, he also kicks children who happen to be in his path. Steeped in Greek classics, spouting cultured allusions to such subjects as Persian painting and Dostoyevski, Lee fancies himself a chastiser of humanity, satirist of the New South, a self-ordained Nietzschean prophet of the crumbling of the West. Alas, he's only a reactionary snob. A solipsistic little parable of spiritual self-delusion, the novel starts out interestingly but sinks under the weight of its own pretensions. - Publishers Weekly

Rancorous, arrogant septuagenarian Lee, the eponymous nonhero of Perdue's terse first novel, wanders a bleak mental region where the boundary between reality and delusion is unmarked. He is followed doggedly by a narrator who declines to provide guideposts. Upon returning to Alabama after a 60-year absence, Lee devoted himself to baleful observation, antisocial gestures, and fantasies of using his heavy cane as a deadly weapon. Obsessed with his books, classic and obscure, Lee derives his contempt for people from his conviction of their ignorance and incapacity for thought. As he lurches toward completion, Lee regularly conjures the multiform spirit of his deceased wife, Judy, his sole companion. Hallucinatory and sordid, this discomforting story holds limited appeal. Consider where nontraditional fiction is popular.- Janet Ingraham


Lee by Tito Perdue is a spellbinding work which gives an entirely new slant to our view of what we have come to call reality. This slim novel has all the makings of a classic in the manner in which it depicts the ongoing evolution of one life. Perdue has touched at a very American nerve—a very Southern nerve which sends our lives and his imagination on a collision course to revelation.
   —New England Reviews of Books

In this, his first novel, Tito Perdue has managed to pull off the unthinkable—to take a character's rage and hatred and turn them into qualities that are, if not exactly worth our admiration, certainly due our respect. His protagonist, Lee, is an old man who, as the book begins, returns to the Alabama hometown he left half a century before under shadowy circumstances of disgrace. Lee gives new meaning to the word curmudgeon—in short, he hates everything, not least of all the stultifying modern society that, he feels, has stolen our very souls. Rather than lament it, however, Lee enacts a plan, cudgeling particularly offensive individuals with a thick walking stick, entreating them to save themselves by uttering "one intelligent word." Written in a hallucinogenic, fragmentary style that bears comparison to Beckett and Faulkner, Lee is a stunning debut, an insistent eulogy for the intellect in these slack-eyed days of ignorance and bliss. —(DLU) Los Angeles Reader

We are ... introduced to Leland Pefley ... in his final days on earth. In an attempt to take one last inventory of the world, Lee returns to his childhood town to resurrect old ghosts, bury others, and chastise the changing world with sharp raps issued by the end of his cane ... 
With his harsh, vitriolic humor, Leland Pefley maps out a world without redemption, without hope, and one in which the only means of correcting the problem involves "an advanced torture machine with the whole world attached." Midway through Lee, Pefley finds himself in a difficult dilemma: "having to choose which of the world's writings to salvage and which to let lapse." ... Yet if conscious of his place in literature, certainly Lee would choose those of his creator, Tito Perdue, to live on.
   —B.J. Hollars

A first novel that follows an old man, a kind of Old Testament prophet full of books and anger at the age, as he wanders—sometimes violently—through the modern urban world and into his own past. Perdue writes convincingly and iconoclastically about a misanthrope who is frightening in his complete contempt for anyone who has not "held on to their soul." Kirkus Reviews

Written with uncompromising venom, Perdue's stunning novel tells us more about ourselves than we might want to know. The author's obvious talent and uncanny wit are reminiscent of Samuel Beckett.
   —Theresa Ducato

…Its language is vitriolic and hallucinatory, yet surprisingly lucid, producing a portrait both exceedingly strange and troubling.   —New York Times Book Review
Fields of Asphodel



Tito Perdue, Fields of Asphodel, Overlook Hardcover, 2007.       Read an excerpt below     



Cult favorite author Tito Perdue--whom the New York Press called "America's Lost Literary Genius"--here reemerges with this new novel about the peculiar afterlife of Leland Pefley. After a life of misdemeanors, Lee had hoped that death would bring an end to things; instead, he awakens into a very bad place full of cold weather, strange tortures, and some of history's most hapless people. His one consolation? An opportunity to chase down his beloved wife who had preceded him in death a few years before he had contrived his own.Equipped with his walking cane, a book of matches, a pair of pretty good shoes, and a tourist brochure, he makes slow progress through a landscape that bears an uncanny resemblance to the America that he thought he had left behind.
Perdue has been compared to writers from Faulkner to Beckett, and in Fields of Asphodel we are reintroduced to one of our true literary talents--and to Leland Pefley, a truly powerful fictional creation.
 
This highly stylized take on the afterlife is the latest installment in Perdue's chronicle of Leland Lee Pefley, the cantankerous Alabaman (following The Sweet-Scented Manuscript). This time out, Lee wakes up from his death in an unpredictable landscape that bears a faint resemblance to his native Alabama, except the sun seems paperlike, seasons don't work the way they should, and it's very cold. Though he's dead, Lee is still 73, still afflicted by hemorrhoids and still a pedant and a misanthrope. Lee has landed with a band of egotists, so they don't like him much either. He longs for and goes in search of his wife, Judy, who predeceased him and who, in Lee's untrustworthy eyes, is a paragon of femininity: modest, supportive, aware of her place. Lee is something like an erudite version of Beckett's Watt or Malone, but lacks the post-WWII context and the lyricism that gives those characters their historical dimension. Perdue has more in common with the poet Ed Dorn, who went after America using some of its highest and lowest forms (booksellers, the rich and male feminists come in for razzing), but while there are some very funny scenes and arresting lines, the book comes across more like Stanley Elkin's jokey The Living End than its great modernist predecessors. - Publishers Weekly


Tito Perdue's first published novel, Lee, follows one Leland Pefley, a septuagenarian misanthrope disgusted with the decadence of modern times, on his return to his native Alabama. With a head full of literature (12,000 volumes, by his count), a self-bestowed "Dr." before his name and a heavy cane, he wanders through his hometown, his only companion the recurring specter of his dead wife, Judy. Over the course of the book, he beats several people with his cane, urinates through a car window and burns down a house. In the end, we find him wandering in the woods on a cold night, stripping off his clothes and, presumably, dying of exposure.
It is a sordid tale. It is also a compact, virtuoso performance, singular in its depiction of one of the more pretentious, grandiloquent protagonists gracing the pages of American fiction ... Leland Pefley has been compared to Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces," but it might be more apt to consider him a sort of reverse-polarity Don Quixote, as consumed by his delusions and romantic notions as his Spanish forebear, but with a decidedly different approach to life: Whereas Quixote sees a bygone age everywhere and gets beaten up for it, Lee sees a bygone age nowhere and beats up others for it.
Fields of Asphodel picks up where Lee left off. Freshly deceased, Lee awakens in the woods in an anti-world not unlike the one he's just departed. He has a heavy stick, two pairs of glasses, good shoes, a suit and a Canadian coin the size of a pie. "I died," he says, "I'm quite sure that I did ... and so then why, pray, am I still producing thoughts, hm, why?" Good question…
The landscape moves gradually toward the modern age, but for the most part the narrative proceeds by a kind of dream-logic, with repeating elements (the moon, restaurants, queues, lizards, cabbage) pervading a general confusion, brilliantly depicted by Perdue. Lee stumbles through barren settings, warehouses, barns and offices. He witnesses variations of "post-mortem career[s]," including, cleverly, two firing squads executing each other in an endless loop.
Eventually, signs indicate that Lee's reckoning is near. He becomes subject to a sort of low-grade comeuppance. A bureaucrat examines his file and declares: "Says that you have always behaved in your own self-interest, but have always expected everybody else to behave from principle. Hey, that doesn't sound good." And when he finally has the opportunity to meet his beloved ancient Greeks, he is forced to conclude that "by no means was this that 'small world of fine people' for which he had been yearning all his life."
… In the end, Lee hardly achieves "that toleration said to be the final result of wisdom," but he does get a glimpse of a tailor-made paradise, assembled for him by a god figure in the form of a candy store confectioner.
And what of moral reckoning? In an utterly charming and brilliantly comic penultimate scene, the god figure praises Lee for his temerity, declaring it a rare quality. "I didn't know You'd like it so much," says Lee. "You're not supposed to know," says the god figure. "That's why it's temerity."
   —Antoine Wilson

 We are first introduced to Leland Pefley—the crotchety, perpetually dissatisfied protagonist of Tito Perdue's debut novel Lee in 1991—in his final days on earth ... in many ways, Lee feels like a mere stepping stone to help us arrive at Perdue's powerful sequel, Fields of Asphodel. We return to find Lee exactly where we left him in the previous book—freshly dead in a dark woods at night... Pefley continues his wandering, purgatorial quest, yet this time it is in the realm of the dead. The book's title refers to this realm. According to the classical Greeks, it is a place where indifferent souls wind up.
Yet Leland Pefley is far from indifferent himself. A man with convictions, with vim, surely there is a heaven or hell reserved for Pefley. But perhaps this speaks to Perdue's greater point: that morality is a judgment call, and we—with all our experience and wisdom—are not qualified to do the judging.
Perdue's books are thoughtful and gutsy, and they offer cautions which couldn't be louder if Leland dangled an albatross from his neck. They are books worth the salvage. They are not books to be lapsed.  —B.J. Hollars
The Sweet-Scented Manuscript




Tito Perdue, The Sweet-Scented Manuscript, Baskerville Publishers, 2004. 

Read an excerpt below

While the subject of Tito Perdue's "The Sweet-Scented Manuscript" (a country boy experiencing the world for the first time when he arrives at college) may not seem unique or special, it is in Perdue's deft manipulations of the novel's language that this artistic effort really shines. Perdue doesn't dumb anything down - rather, he exhibits an efficiency with words that gently demands that the reader pay full attention to the prose. Often, books like this can get bogged down in their own aesthetic self-importance, but Perdue sidesteps such problems with ease. Practically every sentence is phrased in such a refreshing manner that I found myself smiling while reading this book - not because of the situations or characters (though the characters are highly individual and fascinating throughout), but because of the playfulness of a sentence or the intricacy of a turn of phrase.
It is a shame that Tito Perdue has remained out of the mainstream for so long - this is his fourth published novel, and it reflects a capable and poetic wordsmith. I recommend this novel to anyone interested in having a fresh and compelling reading experience. - Walker Evans
 
The Sweet Scented Manuscript caught me unawares, I thought Mr. Perdue had given up writing since fewer people are reading these days. After all, most novels nowadays are hacked out with the hope that a Hollywood producer will take notice and pick up the movie rights. That will not happen in the Lee series for two reasons. First, because Lee Pefley is his own man, and has definite notions about what's what. And second because producers only take notice of comic books. Lee might best be described as a dinosaur in the Era of Louthood.
I must assume that there is a hint of autobiography in these novels, and Manuscript describes how Lee met his bride. The setting alterantes between Ohio and Chicago, with school and work in the former, and romance in the Big Shouldered City. It's Lee's attitude to work that fascinates me because he does absolutely nothing to please his bosses as if daring them to sack him. He's always trying to find out which will be the last straw. I can't live like that, but wish I could tell my toady bosses where to get off. It seems that most firings take place due to "lack of chemistry" rather than employee incompetence.
I have never met Mr. Perdue, but I did meet his neighbor once in Montgomery AL in a rally to support Judge Roy Moore. The young man seemed surprised to find somebody familiar with his work. - Stephen Miroy


"This is one to be read slowly, relishing every sentence like a rich dessert wine... this is a magical love story, cute, visceral, and absorbing, with a caliginous dreamlike atmosphere, a charismatic voice, clever dialogue, and endearing characters so real that they almost feel like personal friends. Indeed, one is almost able to inhale the distinctive air of that time and place, almost a witness to events, rather than a reader from cynical postmodernity, half a century removed... the story is told in a terrifically amusing manner, and every page is a constellation of little gems... One is sad to reach the end."
   —Alex Kurtagic (read the full review)

Go South, Young Man
Tito Perdue's Lee Pefley comes of age, by Jim Knipfel

In his first novel, 1991's Lee, Tito Perdue introduced us to Alabama-born Lee Pefley, age 70. Even as he approached his final days, Lee was a proud reactionary, a misanthrope's misanthrope, an American Bardamu who railed against every eruption of modern "culture." Glossy magazines, television, pop music—every step outside his room, each encounter with Western Civilization in steep decline drove him to paroxysms of cane-swinging rage. His only solace came from books—specifically, the classics—and from the memories of his beloved late wife, Judy. The novel contains some of the most heartfelt, lively, funny, and wicked rants I've ever read.
In his next book, The New Austerities, Perdue gave us Lee again, but middle-aged this time, and working at a Wall Street insurance company. Here, Lee is a sociopathic library-book kleptomaniac, an insomniac who listens to Wagner, carries a gun, drinks, and has little patience for his co-workers or the city around him. Unwilling to put up with the New York of the early 80s any longer, he quits his job and sets off with Judy on a phantasmagoric journey down the East Coast toward the Alabama homestead of his youth, where he hopes to resuscitate the decrepit family farm. Like Lee, The New Austerities is a sharp, savage novel, both hilarious and relentlessly grim. Love Lee Pefley or hate him (he wouldn't much care either way), he always commands your attention.
Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture, Perdue's next, focuses on Ben, Lee's grandfather, and is more elegiac than his previous novels. This only makes sense, given the time and place and character involved. Still, the writing is unmistakable. Perdue's craftsmanship and descriptive prose remains unmatched by most any writer I can think of today. If you had to give a name to his style, I guess you might call it a kind of "Gothic postmodern classical." It is rich and melodic and furious, loaded with literary allusions and uproarious non sequitur details.
It's been nearly 10 years since we've seen a new novel from Mr. Perdue (which says more about the short sightedness of the publishing industry than it does about Mr. Perdue); this is why his new novel, The Sweet-Scented Manuscript, is such a blessing.
Although Lee Pefley is once again the protagonist, the novel bears only a momentary resemblance to the first two. In fact, at heart this one's a love story—but a love story as only Perdue could tell it (and Lee could live it).
The Sweet-Scented Manuscript (the title comes from The Rubaiyat) opens with Lee, now 18, boarding a bus to leave home for the very first time, on his way to college in Ohio in 1956.
Everything he sees out his window is new to him. Birmingham, the first big city he's ever experienced, fills him with wonder and awe—but the lights and the crowds don't leave him so dumbstruck that he forgets to check his wallet every few minutes. (Yet he still falls for the most transparent of penny-ante grifts.)
Along the way, no detail escapes Lee's eye—from the changes in the landscape to the light of the moon, to the expressions on the faces of his fellow bus passengers. Throughout the book, in fact, Lee is always noticing everything, from the hand gestures of people across the street to whatever might be happening in the farthest corner of the room.
"Across from him," Perdue writes, "a fat woman was sitting with a stunned expression, knees far apart. No one loved her, no one ever had, and now she no longer thought about it anymore. Outside, a tramp drifted past, his face revealing that it had only just now occurred to him that this was to be his last winter on earth."
 Upon reaching the campus of the small liberal arts college, he is at once fascinated and shocked, envious of the people he sees carrying books, playing chess, and having discussions in cafes. They're all brilliant, he surmises. And so, immediately, he himself adopts the air of the world-weary intellectual with romantic fantasies of an early death (which he happily shares with everyone).
Soon, however, he falls for Judy—the most beautiful girl on campus—and all but forgets his studies as he moons over her. When it becomes clear that she doesn't love him as much as he loves her, his passion becomes obsessive and, at times, angry.
 It sounds, to read my description, like a fairly boilerplate set up for a coming-of-age novel, but it's not. And it's not for several reasons—first, the fact that it's so real. I left for college 30 years after Lee did, but his experience of those early days struck home in detail after detail—from the picnic at the home of the college president to the unease at first meeting a new roommate, to the feelings of inadequacy and wonder over being in such an alien place surrounded by people like these. At the same time, however, Purdue drops in the odd detail—the dog with stumpy wings, say, or the policeman with the well-oiled gloves, or the broken hamburger held together with toothpicks—just to reinforce the fact that, to an Alabama boy away from home and in love for the first time, Ohio is a strange and exotic planet.
The other thing that makes this much more than a simple novel about first romance is Perdue's fluid, consciously musical prose. Normally, upon hearing the terms "musical" or "poetic" in reference to prose, I steer clear, expecting it to be more of that vapid, Atlantic Monthly writing-seminar crap. But Perdue's prose is musical, like Wagner or Mahler. It's got guts to it.
"Time, dread Time, it was nudging both of them closer and closer to eternity, night closing in, leaves falling. And sometimes it seemed to him they had but moments, parts of moments, and then must go tumbling forever among the stars."
Before he realizes what's happening, Judy has left for New York, and Lee discovers that his semester of work-study is to be spent in Cleveland, where he takes a job as a copyboy at a believably dysfunctional newspaper populated with cranky editors, drunken reporters, and an ongoing card game in the bathroom.
It's in Cleveland that we witness Lee both coming into his own and coming a bit unglued—in short, becoming the Lee we've met in the earlier novels. He wanders the seedier parts of town, hangs out at strip clubs, and becomes an insomniac (sort of like a southern Travis Bickle). No matter where he goes, none of the people around him seem quite right, somehow. Lee himself seems kind of shaky, too.
"In the next booth, a man came up suddenly for air, allowing himself to be seen for the first time. They looked at each other, Lee and the man, both sharing the intelligence that life was old and death just outside the door. The jukebox music, as ignorant as it was, yet it harkened him back to Alabama and to his own incredible career that had played itself out to just such songs. Yes it was the Past once again tossing up memories whether he wanted to look at them or no. And sometimes it seemed to him that he could not go on much longer, seizure to seizure, memory to memory."
What Perdue seems to be doing in The Sweet-Scented Manuscript is the same sort of thing Joyce was doing in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (I don't think the similarity is wholly accidental). He's writing simultaneously with innocence and wisdom about a character who was innocent but didn't want to be—or at least didn't want to appear to be—and of a more innocent time that was, nevertheless, hardly as innocent as we often tend to think. It's a tricky thing to pull off, but Perdue does it with grace and style. Lee moves through the world not driven by much except his love for Judy, convinced all along that he's going to die by the age of 23. Mostly he just drifts around, looks at things, has uncomfortable conversations with people, and dreams of travel. He's not as angry as we know he will be in later years, but near the end of the book, he's getting there. Now, he's just a little morbid and Romantic, full of the kind of hubris you'll always find in overly well-read 18-year-olds.
After returning to college, he wins Judy's heart, has small adventures with his harmonica-tooting roommate, Luke, tries in a number of ways to rebalance Luke's brilliant but unbalanced girlfriend, Sylvia, and never, ever seems to go to class.
To be honest, there's not much by way of plot, but as Perdue once told me in an interview for New York Press, "Life doesn't have a plot." Things just happen. He tries to hitchhike to New York with Luke. He takes a lot of long bus rides. He stops to stare in the windows of pawnshops and bookstores. He has brief encounters with bums and ticket takers and waitresses. Through these tiny events, we slowly witness Lee's growing contempt for authority figures and unease around the cities he claims to love. Yet, though little happens in terms of plot, we're never bored, because we're seeing everything from Lee's perspective, and while he may be awfully grim at times, he's also (loath as we may be to admit it) funny as hell.
In one particularly hilarious sequence, he and Judy visit Chicago. It's by far the largest city he's ever seen, full of people who are (literally) running all the time, and whose habits he hasn't quite grasped yet. (When a hostess in a restaurant asks if she can bring them anything from the bar, Lee replies, "Sure… If you want to.")
Lee Pefley remains a character, even at 18, of incredible depth, thanks to Perdue. He's confused but getting there, not sure what he wants and so in turn not wanting much, content to soak up experience wherever he can, living in a world we all know but may not always recognize.
Likewise, Tito Perdue is, without question, one of the most important contemporary Southern writers we have—and should certainly be considered among the most important American writers of the early 21st century. This new novel of his is an absolute delight.  —New York Press
The New Austerities







Tito Perdue,  The New Austerities, Peachtree Publishers, 1994.
Read an excerpt below

Come along on a bizarrely entertaining journey deep into the rotting soul of America. Lee Pefley, a man who make misanthopy look benevolent, decides to flee the decay and drudgery of New York city for his childhood Alabama. Accompanied by his beloved wife Judy ("short and possibly getting shorter"), $19,000 in hundred-dollar bills, a supply of pilfered library books, and a pistol, Lee sets out on a bleakly hilarious tour of the easter nstates. A passionate lover of classical literature, an incurable kleptomaniac, an overwrought paranoid, and a hopeless insomniac, Lee looks at the world through uniquely hallucinatory, and definitely not rose-colored, glasses. The view is spectacularly original.


Bored, 50-ish Wall Street insurance man Leland Pefley, nicknamed Lee, is a lover of Mahler and Wagner, a compulsive stealer of library books, a connoisseur of ancient Greece and a gun-toting, hard-drinking paranoiac. Protagonist of Perdue's debut novel Lee (1981), which portrayed him as a septuagenarian, misanthropic Lee, in this edgy prequel, hates big cities, career women, television, pop music and other signs of decadent Western civilization. With his charmingly eccentric wife Judy, Lee flees New York for his native Alabama. Their adventures en route involve a farmers' wedding in the woods and a mystic automobile repairman who recounts near-death experiences. Moving into a decrepit old house that he inherited, Lee attends a family reunion and learns to sympathize with ordinary people, though he is dismayed by a New South full of video stores and group-therapy workshops. At bottom a reactionary snob, Lee voices a howl of protest against regimented and standardized modern existence, sentiments with which discriminating readers may find themselves in accord. His relentlessly bleak vision is never lugubrious, however, due to Perdue's magically evocative descriptive powers, pungent wit and iconoclastic point of view. Those who read Lee will find this look at the hero's earlier life especially poignant. Publishers Weekly

Tito Perdue('s)…eye for detail, his ear for dialogue, whether in cosmopolitan New York or rural Alabama, manifest themselves in language that is fresh and innovative, full of surprise and oftentimes kooky humor. In returning to his homeland, Lee "almost spoke out loud to find now one certain field … Here, too, love affairs had taken place, ignorance and passion, hostility between families, and the death of girls—the landscape had worn down almost to nothing beneath the burden of it."
Perdue's effort to free himself from the conventions of storytelling match nicely with his protagonist's attempt to escape from the deeply ingrained and unconsciously accepted patterns of life in the 20th century. "The New Austerities," the shenanigans of its hero notwithstanding, is a serious and absorbing book; in the sensibility of Lee Pefley we can avail ourselves of a new, if sometimes troubling, insight into our times. William C. Brisick

 This is a "prequel" to Tito Perdue's 1991 novel, Lee, and it is a wonderful, comic, almost surreal contribution to the literature of anti-modernism. Leland "Lee" Pefley is Alabama-born, a student of the Greeks, Nietzsche and Spengler. Spiritually and temperamentally, one can place him as the descendant of Ezekiel Carlyle and Ignatius J. Reilly. Living in New York and working for an insurance company, he sees a 4,000-year-old civilization on its last legs. The causes and symptoms of this decline are conflated. Among other disorders, there is the rise of "women of the new type" as Lee refers to them; capable, manly women who get the job done, women who look upon his own inefficiency as ineptitude, rather than—as it might more properly be conceived—aesthetic fastidiousness. To be sure, anything practical that is done around Lee is achieved by his wife, Judy, with whom he is still in love after 30 years. Television is another dreadful and debilitating affliction, of course—although Lee does watch it for the purpose of "studying the commercials." If Lee were to have his way, the world would be "a small world getting smaller,…a fine people getting finer." He sees his choice being, essentially, to bump off the ruck or forswear modern people altogether.
Eventually, at his wife's prompting, he decides to flee New York with her and head for Alabama. Lee's uncomplacent, out-of-scale and idiosyncratically skewed view of the world takes on physical reality as they drive through the country attempting to avoid Philadelphia and other problematic wens. Their adventures and their eventual meeting with his kinfolk are masterpieces of ghoulish whimsy, refreshed by sly and breezy irony. There is, apparently, more of the "Lee cycle" to come. I, for one, wait with impatience.    —Katherine A. Powers

…Though recognizable as a Southern writer, Perdue can hardly be confined to a region. Often, the cadences of this language and imagery, as well as his fascination with time, recall Faulkner, but his comedic tone echoes the early Samuel Beckett. Perdue ranges swiftly from the Biblical to the burlesque, creating a distinctive and intriguing new voice…    —Cynthia Walsh Kloss

Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture


Tito Perdue, Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture, Baskerville Publishers, 1994.

Read an excerpt below

In volcanically active, post Civil War Alabama, a young man leaves his demented father's compound and seeks a job and a mate among fellow Alabamns who consider him genetically suspect.

The cynicism and drastic rejection of the modern that pervaded Perdue's Lee and The New Austerities are less evident in this lyrical but ironic novel, a haunting portrait of an Alabama farmer that begins in the 1870s and ends with his dying moments in 1936. Ben, the protagonist (and grandfather of the title hero of Lee), leaves his half-demented widower father, clerks in a dry goods store, keeps a hive of bees, works as a spelling teacher, goes whoring and then stumbles into marriage with a Betty, a land-rich woman. As a farmer struggling to feed six children, Ben takes a second job as a mailman, coping with robbers, drought, floods and debt, as well as with his independent-minded wife. In a strong, expressive, oddly musical style, Perdue magically evokes an Alabama of still smoldering volcanoes, red clay, windmills and ramshackle towns where horse-drawn buggies mingle with automobiles. Ben, whose gumption and misguided cleverness land him into misadventures, seems a Forrest Gump-like innocent at the novel's outset, but Perdue wryly charts his protagonist's growing maturity and breadth of vision. - Publishers Weekly

Insomniac and nearly as delusional as his demented father, Benjamin Reuben hesitantly explores the immediate reaches of rural post-Civil War Alabama beyond the family's mule-cultivated farm. Considered the best of a bad lot, Ben and his eccentricities are viewed with great amusement by the locals through his careers as dry goods clerk, teacher, farmer, and mail carrier. Retaining several literary devices from his earlier novel Lee (LJ 9/15/91)-e.g., the main character's fixation on obscure books-Perdue paints his own picture of the South. Unfortunately, the story has little appeal. Though told from the perspective of a Southern idiot, it should not be compared to Faulkner's classic, The Sound and the Fury (1929). For Southern regional collections only. - Robert Jordan


Part of the power of the prose of a William Faulkner or Thomas Wolfe comes from the prose reading like poetry. In Faulkner's case, the poetry is encased in masterful structure and carries great plots; in Wolfe's case, the language is enough.
Tito Perdue's novel, Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture, is in that genre of southern fiction told in great language. The plot is almost unnecessary to the book because the language is so well crafted.
For proof, read only his opening paragraph (aloud, please):
"Followed then six years in silence. For if it were otherwise in old times, now it had come to this, that he dwelled on nine acres near the edge of the world. Have I said he had ten brothers? Each more ignorant than the other? Himself most ignorant of all? Sin, too, sin was there, so much of sin that all had taken to keeping their faces covered, yea, even in their many tasks. And if once Wade did rush from the opening, his face girded-up in self-punishment, yet soon the sun would drive him back."
What follows is like unto the beginning. The story is almost irrelevant to the language.
Ben is the hero, as his grandson, Lee, was in Perdue's two earlier novels. Born in the wake of the Civil War, he leaves the farm at age 16 and makes his way into the world, using his ability to spell to land a job teaching school and into the graces of a woman with abundant farmland. Back into farming, Ben hovers on the brink of economic annihilation, only to be rescued again by his spelling ability, which gets him into government service.
Ben's is an odyssey and a genealogy no different from that of thousands of other southern boys caught in the transition century between the Civil War and World War II. The difference is that Perdue invests the saga of leaving and longing with poetry, and suddenly our grandfathers take on nobility that may have escaped them at the time.    —Southern Seen by Larry McGehee

…Perdue's writing is convincing and lucid and provides the reader with black comedy that is both strange and troubling as it depicts the events in one life…  —Larry Lawrence
tito
When people ask me to list my favorite authors, I don't offer up too many surprises—except when I mention Tito Perdue, whose name usually elicits little more than blank stares and puzzled shrugs. And that's just wrong.
 I read Perdue's debut novel, Lee, when it was first published in 1991. Lee is a slim novel that tells the story of 70-year-old Lee Pefley, who, after many years, returns to the small Alabama town of his youth. There, he encounters the modern world—the new age, as he calls it—and Lee, a man who loves classical literature and despises mediocrity, doesn't much like what he finds. It was a sentence on page nine that hooked me for good:
 "All his life he had wanted to identify what it was the masses most loathed, and then to see that they got it in spades."
Perdue's prose—and it's the prose that matters—was at once simple and rich, supremely intelligent, full of rage but under complete control. It was also funny as hell.
In 1994, Perdue released his next two novels—The New Austerities (in which a younger Lee—a paranoid insomniac with a bad case of kleptomania—leaves a white-collar job in New York, takes a nightmarish journey down the East Coast and settles on an arid, broken-down farm), and Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture (which focuses on Lee's grandfather, Ben—an idiot-savant who founds a postal system in a volcano-ravaged post-Civil War South). The writing had grown progressively textured and more savage—and I was thrilled to see that literature like this was still being written and more importantly, published.
After those three novels, however, there was silence. No more books came out, and Perdue himself seemed to have vanished. Maybe that's the way he wanted it. I didn't know. I didn't even know if he was still alive. When I found an address in Georgia that may or may not have been his, I wrote a letter.
A week later, I heard back. Mr. Perdue was, indeed, very much alive. Better still, he was writing. He'd always been writing, and had finished several manuscripts. However, he wrote, "my books have been failures from the financial point of view, and it's not likely that any more of them will appear."
Perdue was born in Chile (to American parents) in 1938. When the war broke out, they returned to the States, and Perdue grew up in Anniston, AL. He married his wife Judy when he was 18 (they're still together), earned degrees in English literature, European history and library science, then took work throughout the Midwest and Northeast as a bookkeeper, a library administrator and an apprentice insurance underwriter. In 1982, with his wife's encouragement, he retired to write full-time. They returned to the South ("Where I belong," he says), and that's what he's been doing ever since.
He's no fan of cities, Mr. Perdue—especially New York—yet this spring he and his wife were in Manhattan, in part to catch a performance of his favorite opera, Parsifal. We met for the very first time for drinks a few hours before the curtain went up.
In his mid-60s, Perdue is a tall, slim, well-dressed man, with owlish glasses, hair going gray at the temples and a powerful handshake. It's hard to detect the accent immediately, but once you catch it, he sounds like Faulkner—had Faulkner spent too much time up North. We sat at the bar, and Mr. Perdue ordered a strawberry daiquiri.
"I drink these sweet drinks," he explained, "because I can't stand the taste of liquors."
What was mostly on his mind that afternoon was the massive new novel he was working on—which might well, he believes, stretch to 2000 pages or more. The source material comes from a cache of old family papers he discovered about a year ago while cleaning out his mother's house. All his novels to date, he told me, have been very autobiographical. He figured it was time to write about someone else.
"When I was growing up, I always underrated my father, seriously. Underrated him as a human being. Then I came across these family papers that made me reconsider what kind of a person he was—and also other members of my family. So I owe this to my forebears. I've become kind of an ancestor-worshipper in my old age. And I'm going to do them justice in this big book. It's gonna have about 20 or 30 major protagonists. A big array of characters—including my grandfather, and uncles, grand-uncles and cousins."
The very first thing Perdue came across in this bundle of papers, remarkably enough, was an account written by his grandfather of a public hanging in 1888.
"They were executing a black man that he happened to know," he said. "He was supposed to stand there and watch them hang one of his dearest friends—but he couldn't watch that, so he left, and he didn't actually witness the execution. It wasn't a lynching," Perdue clarified. "The guy had been convicted of a murder, and this was simply a public hanging, which was common in those days.
"My grandfather was a tough old bird," he continued. "My father grew up in the most severe way imaginable. He was expected to work continuously. Never had any amusements. Grandfather was a puritan. He had four boys, and would discipline them in the harshest way. He used to use a buggy whip on them. Yet they all grew up, if not loving the old man, at least respecting him.
"As I write about him, I'm trying to show this callous nature of his on the one hand, and on the other hand, this great entrepreneurial strength that he had. He came from nowhere, had nothing, came from the poorest layers of society. He set up a timber company, had a saw mill, a brick mill, had a farm, raised all these children in the biggest house in town—he did this out of sheer strength of will—and he did it honestly.
"My father told me one time that the Ku Klux Klan came to [the grandfather's] house and wanted him to take part in some mischief they had in mind. He said, 'Just a minute, boys,' went and got his shotgun, and said, 'Now this is the only thing I've got to say to you.' He had the guts to buck the Klan in those days. That took a lot of moxie, and he had it."
The second piece of paper he came across in the family files detailed a duel his great-uncle got roped into.
"He was a very sensitive, high-strung man. He went to an opera in Montgomery one day. There was a lady in front of him who had some sort of a fancy hat on, and she wouldn't take it off—so he couldn't see the opera. He tapped on her shoulder and said, 'Pardon me, lady, but would you remove your hat?' The man with her turned around and slapped him right across the face, because he thought that his girlfriend had been insulted. That was an invitation to a duel. So they went outside—and my great-uncle did not have a pistol, so somebody ran to the nearest house and borrowed one. He didn't know how to shoot, but he was not going to back down. They had their duel right out there in front of the opera house, and my great-uncle shot the man right the smack home"—he pointed between his eyes—"and killed him dead as anything. Went back in and watched the rest of the opera."
He laughed, then told me that this same great-uncle later died of a broken heart after the second, and last, of his sons died.
"These are the kind of people that I have got to write about. I can't let that be forgotten."
Perdue told me that, apart from the big book, he had eight or nine finished manuscripts sitting in his closet at home. The only one I'd heard of was something called Morning Crafts—about Lee's adolescence—so I asked what a few of the others were like.
"In the last pages of Lee, he dies," he reminded me. "I have a book that takes up at that very moment, and pushes him through a purgatory-like place, where he's looking for his lost wife. It goes on for about 300 pages, one torment after another. It's like Dante's Inferno—it's just one hideous experience after another."
"I was talking to [John Gardner] one time, and he said, 'Tito, the function of good prose is to make you forget that you are reading, so that you're conscious only of what's happening.' I don't believe that's right. When you read the Old Testament, you are very conscious of the prose—in fact the prose is the main thing. I don't believe that prose should be translucent. I don't believe that plot is all that matters. I believe that language matters greatly. Would Gardner say that language doesn't matter in poetry? What I despise about contemporary literature is that the prose has no character. It's like a glass of water—it's not bad, but it's not memorable. There are no phrases that you remember. It has no corners or colors or shape to it. It's amorphous. But it does the job. It tells the story. But I don't care about the story. My books have very little plot. I don't even like plot."
In fact, a reliance on plot simply annoys him. "Life doesn't have a plot." Prose, he explains, is a much more difficult—and much more valuable—craft. Problem these days is that publishers don't always agree. I asked Perdue about this—and about his own take on being ignored by the industry.
"If you're a celebrity, you can easily find a ghostwriter and get your book published, make a lot of money. You may not be able to frame a proper English sentence, but you'll still have the notoriety. Judy's father was a novelist who wrote 20 novels in his lifetime—published two of them. Worked his ass off at a factory job for 40 years. Put in his 40 hours a week all those years, came home at night dog-tired, wrote his novels, got the first two published and then nothing for the rest of his life. He paid all the dues, made all the sacrifices."
It sounded too familiar.
"I have one advantage—I witnessed what happened to my father-in-law, so I was prepared for this, I was hardened to it. I never really expected anything, and I don't require it. My self-esteem does not depend on it, and I can live happily without it. I do have this compunction—this imperative—to write the damn things. And I'll rewrite them until I get them the way I want them. But if they're not published?... I don't suffer over it. I used to, I admit, when I was younger. It used to grieve me greatly that I couldn't get published. But I've published enough to know that being published is not an apotheosis."
Meanwhile, those first three novels are still available. I went back to them recently, and they're even more brilliant than I remembered. And Perdue is still writing—and for that I'm very happy.
There's a scene in Lee, where the protagonist, wielding a massive walking stick, bludgeons an insufferable youngster quite nearly to death. Each blow, Lee tells us, was made "on behalf of some great man the new age has ignored."
Sometimes, by God, it certainly is tempting.-
Jim Knipfel

  A Lost Art, by Thomas Fleming, editor of Chronicles magazine
"Neither conservative nor liberal, but a reactionary radical, Tito Perdue has written some of the best satire on contemporary America, and he has put his criticism in the form of novels which can hold their own with the best postmodern fiction."

Lee Pefley—Sociopath and Sage, by Derek Turner, editor of Quarterly Review
"The unlikeable, unforgettable character of Lee Pefley embodies a paradox—that some of those who seem by today's standards to be the most acerbic, the most misanthropic, the most 'irrelevant' and 'out of touch' may secretly be the greatest idealists of all."



You have been called "America's lost literary genius" and compared with many different writers—James Joyce, William Faulkner, Samuel Beckett, John Kennedy Toole, to name just some—but with whom would you wish to be compared? Who or what made you want to be a writer?
My fate was sealed, I believe, when my father began reading aloud each night a chapter from some piece of children's or young adult literature. The Swiss Family Robinson for example, or The Call Of The Wild. Later on as an adolescent I bumped into the novels of Thomas Wolfe, and thereafter I had no choice but to try to do what I've tried to do. 
I think maybe Swift and Aristophanes (I do not compare myself to these masters) felt as estranged from their societies as Lee from his. 
Your novels tell the story of Lee Pefley at different stages in his own life, through the lives of an ancestor and even posthumously. Pefley is reactionary, elitist, misanthropic, arrogant, intolerant, dreamy and inspired; he delights in being hated. He possesses a literally extreme idealism—"It accorded with his philosophy that good things should be far, far better than they were, and the bad worse, and never to avoid an extreme"—with exceeding nastiness—cudgelling people, stealing cars and books, leaving toilets unflushed to show contempt for the next user. Obviously, you do not behave as he does, but equally obviously he is at least semi-autobiographical. I have to ask the difficult but also predictable question—where does Perdue stop and Pefley begin? Is Pefleyism the satirical or the logical conclusion of Perdueism?
Lee actually carries out actions that his creator would often wish to perform if he but had the courage. However, most of Lee's worst behavior occurs after he has lost his wife. I am minded of a line in Eisenstein's Ivan The Terrible when, after the Tsarina has been poisoned, Ivan declares that he now intends to be fully as terrible as he had been credited with. Of course, a person who feels genuine contempt would not consider his fellow citizens significant enough to deserve mistreatment. 
Pefley is usually appalling, but he is also occasionally admirable. He loves beautiful things, he loves learning, and he has a devotion to his wife that lasts even beyond the grave. He does not hate people as such, but rather society, for turning them into what he sees as ovine voters and sports fans—infantilized, weak-willed, sensate, soft, avaricious, narcissistic, guilt-ridden, frightened. What, for you and/or Pefley, are the chief causes of civilizational decay?
Some people believe our decadence has been caused by loss of faith, but I've come to believe that loss of faith is itself caused by prolonged prosperity, which dissolves discipline and offers temptations that cannot be resisted by most people. America could have stood up to anything except this. For Pefley and/or you, the 1950s were a time of transition "between the rough men of the past and the soft ones of the generation coming up". Can you explain what you mean by this?
I think I've read that G. B. Shaw once prophesied that America would prove the first civilization to advance direct from barbarism to decadence without having ever passed through civilization. And yet we did have that brief period, about 15 or 20 years worth between 1940 and 1960, our very own Belle Epoch when people behaved well for the most part, the economy was sufficient without being sumptuous, and a man could support a numerous family on his one salary alone. It was a romantic age, too, and in a way that lies altogether outside the experience of the young people of today. 
You have Pefley say, at the age of 18, "I had rather be young now, in this decade, than rich and immortal later on", and you write about the specific qualities of Pefley's teenage years in the 1950s—how much better the music was then, how much pleasanter society, and so forth. But isn't this sort of thing highly subjective? Doesn't every generation think itself special, and its experiences and tastes richer than those of previous generations?
Lee is predicting that his age, the 1950s, will have been far better than the next generation's, a remarkably prescient piece of prognostication for one so young. But he's not dismissive of the past, if I remember correctly. On the contrary, as an adult he is prone to idealizing past ages.  
Pefley is contemptuous of the incurious—"They would rather have something than be something—had they rather to read in Persian or have a new car? How I long to grant to them the death that Crassus had—a good full meal of molten gold!" But this seems unjust; surely the majority of people have only ever been as civilized as their exemplars?
There are an infinite number of people who could be selected as exemplars. And if the majority has always preferred rock stars and basketball players to composers and heroes of thought and action, then let them be criticized for it.
Some people strike Pefley as particularly objectionable, especially those who are economically successful—"[Lee saw] a nightmare face in a sports car. The car was a miracle of science and engineering, the driver himself pure rubbish, a pattern that seemed to hold for the century at large." Pefley is always panting for the return of poverty, which for him is intrinsically ennobling. But surely poverty more often has a degrading effect?
Not poverty, but a certain degree of austerity, that's what fosters the best. Under present conditions, the very wealthiest people are also generally among the very worst. It is far, far better under contemporary capitalism to short sell futures indexes than to be any sort of creative human being doing actual work. It's embarrassing to talk about these matters, as debased as the system is.
Must there always be an inverse correlation between economic prosperity and social decay?
Between sumptuousness and decay, yes I think so. The Hellenistic Period was far richer than the Hellenic. Of Rome, Gibbon writes, "Prosperity ripened the principle of decay." Britain has never been wealthier than today. 
If true, doesn't that mean that civilization is always doomed to fail?
Civilizations don't have to get wealthy. Sometimes they become poorer. America was a better, if more uncomfortable place during The Great Depression than it is now.
Can our civilization be saved? Pefley seems to feel that all that can be done is a kind of opting-out, like Christian setting out from the City of Destruction. What would Pefley think of someone who shared his views, but who wanted to try and fix things from inside?
Lee would have the greatest respect and sympathy for anyone striving to repair the system from within, even if he also believes such people are on schedule to fail. His rather morose view is that nothing can save us short of a catastrophe of some kind, a pandemic perhaps, or well-targeted meteorite.  
Lee's character is prefigured in his grandfather (Opportunities in Alabama Agriculture). Yet despite having similar natures and impulses, Ben stays and endures in rural Alabama, whereas Lee moves away—although he is eventually drawn back eventually to his hometown. Is Lee's leaving a product of his simply having an enquiring mind—or is it just because he could? Don't people always leave if they can? What price then Pefley's idealized 'life on the farm'?
A farmer, if he owns his own land, is his own boss and will rise or sink according to his own merits and effort and luck. A person of that sort is likely to form his own opinions and is largely immune to current fashion. America once was populated by just such folk, and the result was splendid. Lee himself, of course, is much too refined for a life like that, and consoles himself by admiring it from afar.
Leland didn't understand what he was doing when he abandoned the South at age 18, and paid dearly for his mistake by ending up in New York. 
One of Pefley's chief targets is ugliness—"He, who had thought all of life to be like certain divine measures in the music of Debussy and Ravel, saw instead that there was a gas station, an immense pile of disused tires, and warehouses with broken windows". Do you really feel that society today is less interested in aesthetic matters than at other times?
Today's society suspects that there might well be such a thing as beauty, but doesn't know where to find it. Instead, our people rely upon the recommendations of authorities, who tell them that a canvas covered in camel dung is an example of high art. They want to do the right thing, but what is it?
It is said that when the Greeks put on a play, the people would come from miles away. That when Byron issued a new volume, crowds would begin to gather an hour before the shops had opened. That Verdi was the most admired Italian of his times. Today that sort of recognition belongs only to the aforementioned rock stars and basketball players. 
Can a lost aesthetic sense be recovered? Is it inherent or inculcated?
Inculcated, Lee and I believe. Unfortunately, the condition of American education makes impossible the inculcation of a sense of beauty in the young, primarily because most educators are themselves ignorant of art and literature. My mother, who attended a one-room schoolhouse in which boys and girls of all ages were crowded together, received a much better education than any young person of my acquaintance. She could recite long passages from Browning and Tennyson when she was 96.  
You say of Pefley "In him, the aesthetical had long ago overborne the ethical". Should aesthetics be more important than ethics?
I think of Wagner, an unethical man who created in my opinion the greatest work of art in any format at any time. Would it have been better on balance if he had never lived? In him the aesthetical justifies the unethical. Mao Zedong, on the other hand, wrote poetry, and nothing can justify him.  
Your books seem highly melancholic—relieved by surreal gallows humour and numinous language—"Sometimes it seemed to him that they had but moments, or parts of moments, and then must go tumbling forever among the stars". Death is always present for Lee—the Elizabethan 'skull beneath the skin', or as you wrote "billions of dead pressing at the windows and gazing in hungrily at the well-fed, still-living ones". Post-modernists would no doubt dismiss this as morbid. What is wrong with our present way of thinking (or not thinking) about death?
Modern people seem confident that it is better to be alive than not, a rash assumption. Lee loves that poem by Poe in which life is treated as a sickness that can be cured only by death. And then, too, there are so many other possibilities. If we can believe in black holes and ten dimensions and the outrages of quantum mechanics and particle physics, then we ought to be able to conjure up all sorts of inviting alternatives to eating and sleeping and earning a living. 
Fields of Asphodel is set posthumously, with Lee searching for his wife's ghost through a purgatorial landscape. The God who appears at the end of Fields is awe-inspiring, but also approachable, and expresses Himself colloquially—like the God of mystery plays. The sort of afterlife you conjure up is as strange and hallucinogenic as anything envisioned by Hieronymus Bosch. I have the impression that Bosch's paintings have been a major influence on your thinking, or at least your writing style—and that your conception of the afterlife may not be all that different from that which obtained in medieval Christendom. Are there any religious thinkers who have had an important impact on you?
 I believe in something, but I don't exactly know what it is. Humans are so complicated and capable of so many fine things that it is hard to believe that they are designed simply to transmogrify to mulch. The secularists say that love and beauty are but prejudices that arise in the mind as a result of atomic interactions, are illusions in other words, good only for appeasing some natural requirement. I doubt it. Cockroaches have no great appetite for poetry, but biologically do quite well. No, I think beauty is a reflection of something that actually exists in some domain that is not available to us in our present state.  - Tito Perdue Interviewed by Derek Turner
 

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