Nothing has its own name

paperback cover of novel WaterlooEven the river is the Alameda. Austin was once called Waterloo, but that’s as close as the nomenclature comes to congruency. In this very low-key novel set in an Austin analogue, sometimes it seems as though all the energy has been expended on devising names. There are glancing looks at at true-to-life people and scenes, and their intersections.

Among the characters are politicos, both elected and lobbying, of at least three eras. Austin’s history of racial segregation is not overlooked (the veracious examination of the history of library service is just one example). Standing in for the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker are Austin equivalents: former bandmembers now with day-jobs, mostly in the bowels of state government, plus a lawyer, a muffin-shop magnate, a construction contractor, and a reporter for the local daily as well as a reporter for the local weekly.

I look forward to the next novel by Karen Olsson, and I hope there’ll be one. There are sections here and there that cry out for reading aloud. My favorite is the bit involving an old-style Austin landlady of a certain age and the monthly obligation to accompany her to dinner at one of the oldest and worst Tex-Mex restaurants in town. We all guess the same one. Although the tone of Waterloo is on the melancholy side, there’s plenty of humor. I hope that somebody has optioned this for a movie and that the movie will be made.

The physical paperbound volume is beautiful, in proportions, typefaces, whitespace, and paper. Waterloo has garnered excellent reviews, including from national publications, but I find that its chief interest for me lies in the Austinesque and that otherwise it’s a somewhat generic effort, a not-quite-coming-of-age narrative whose characters take slight steps in the direction of adopting conventional notions of maturity and may or may not in the future think better of it. Waterloo is a light romance, and “Waterloo,” the town, is the true object of desire.

Comments are closed.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.