If you are old enough to feel nostalgic over the wheat field that's now a Kentucky Fried Chicken or the old Victorian on the corner that's now a strip mall, then you'll understand the underlining of this novel.
But more than about what's physically gone, California's Over ruminates over emotional change—the kind of growing up angst that we all encounter when the shadow that we have formerly occupied shifts, and we are revealed. The greatness of this book is found in it's ability to tackle this nostalgia satirically. "Having James Farmican for a father was like inheriting a fortune in Confederate currency," Peter, an aspiring writer, complains about his deceased father, a renowned Berkeley Poet.
From the Book Jacket:
California's Over leads us down an unmarked road to the coast and then deep into the rotten, labyrinthine house where James Farmican, the famous poet, shot himself to death years ago, leaving behind a legacy of adulation and bankruptcy. Now his family is leaving, and the young narrator — who calls himself Baelthon — has been hired to haul the furniture onto the lawn and sort through the attic and basement. But as Baelthon excavates, he also discovers layers of family mystery and comedy and cruelty, all of it piled too deeply for anyone to sort out: the unexplained disappearance of Farmican's ashes, the unfinished novel that may actually be his suicide note, the opera about cannibalism that his son is writing to rescue himself from obscurity, and, finally, the family's migration to the Nevada desert to claim their inheritance.
And Baelthon discovers Wendy, Farmican's sixteen-year-old daughter, who keeps her checkers pieces taped to the board where she and her father left them before he died. Emerging from her chrysalis of baby fat and self-loathing, Wendy is destined to be both the love of Baelthon's life and the object of his betrayal.
Twenty-five years later, from the perspective of mid- and middle-class life, Baelthon recalls the mistaken selves he and the Farmicans once inhabited. What he doesn't expect — or think he deserves — is the redemption and abiding, against-all-odds love that await him.
“Louis B. Jones's third novel, ''California's Over,'' is a satirical elegy for the age of dime-store Zen, when the pop songs were all about watching clouds go by and pot's reputation for killing motivation was actually a selling point.”
— By Walter Kirn, New York Times
"In Louis B. Jones, as in no other writer working today, a sense of moral outrage, that rare thing, is yoked, oddly and with extraordinary power, to a thrilling gift for lyrical prose."
— Michael Chabon, author of Kavalier and Clay
"The people are so human and written with so original a cunning that they are virtually worlds in themselves."
— Richard Eder
"Louis B. Jones is a skillful satirist, who sees all, knows all, but who is never cruel."
Because of their experience in worlds so different from our own, scientists often completely miss the 'norms' represented by modern life. I worked for a collection of Astronomers once, and let me tell you if they could write fiction, I'd read it just to get inside their heads. Luckily, Louis is brilliant enough to convey the wacky wisdom of a person who is accustomed to looking at the world through the lens of energy waves and particles. What makes this book so funny is the juxtaposition between two neighbors—one a physicist and the other a failed father and pizza shop owner—neither of whom are remotely close to 'normal.'
From the Book Jacket
Particles and Luck is the story of one night, two men, and an invisible third force that had brought these two men together. Mark Perdue and Roger Hoberman have nothing in common — except the joy of adjoining yards. Mark is a whiz-kid physicist who knows that the "genius" stature and the endowed chair at Berkeley that have been accorded him are bits of dumb luck. Roger is the owner of a pizza franchise whose luck has turned dumb — in financial and marital distress, he has been denied child-visitation rights but not babysitting obligations.
Roger and Mark have just been notified of a claim of adverse possession on their property, effective the next day. Particles and Luck is the story of the Halloween night they spend together trying to imagine how this threat will materialize. Camped out amidst pieces of Roger's Naugahyde furniture, warmed by a pile of Kingsford briquettes, marking boundary lines with Oakland Raiders pennants — this will be a night unlike any other night in contemporary fiction. Loony, humane, and transcendently wise, Particles and Luck is an irresistible comedy of manners and epistemology.
One experiences the characters with shifting feelings of tenderness and exasperation, hope and despair. Hilarious ... gracefully written...[Jones] has created a quirky but wholly real work in which to examine themes of fate and coincidence in a seemingly effortless manner."
— Chicago Tribune
"A lovely and invigorating novel...a domestic farce and social satire. Jones writes [an] engaging novelistic equivalent of a unified field theory -- in this case, a link between the human heart and the behavior of subatomic particles."
— Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times
"Jones is the real thing -- a writer with something to say and his own way of saying it."
— Scott Turow
"What a smart novel "Particle and Luck" is. How good of Louis B. Jones to remind us what a beautiful land -- a terra linda -- we live in, and to remind us of the beautiful universe beyond."
— Carolyn See, New York Times Book Review
6 months ago