My brother recently returned a book that I thought I had given to him. He believed that I had simply loaned it out to him, so he wanted to return it, as any considerate reader would do. (N.B.: I lend books only to my brother.) After flipping through a few pages, I was reminded of the sheer joy that I experienced while reading this novel. Thus, here is my review/endorsement of Lee:
In Lee the contemporary Southern author Tito Perdue introduces the eponymous Leland Pefly–Lee, a satisfyingly malevolent cane-wielding septuagenarian, a venomous Don Quixote. A bolder Ignatius J. Reilly who is not afraid to carry out his baleful vision, Lee has declared a personal war against Modern Times with the attendant gesticulating sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who cannot stand still, pudgy-bottomed women who have not read even one percent of the world’s best literature yet who can find the time to golf, wretched little businessmen who waste their lives all the while deluding themselves that they are doing something delicious (which is the reason they whisper), sons-of-bitches who love their jobs more than their wives, ignorant library attendants, and all dopey mouth-breathing slack-jaws everywhere.
With his beloved wife’s, Judy (a woman, he swears, who kept getting smaller and smaller), recent death and his own end approaching (though, not at the pace at which Lee commands), Lee laments that he cannot sleep away the rest of his life, for he is a man from whom only the somnolent fantasy worlds peopled by historical and literary figures best conjured by sleep will suffice; this is perhaps the cruelest joke that the cosmos has perpetrated on him (apart from placing him in a civilization in decay). Not able to luxuriate in the dreams that an ontological rarity such as he deserves to enjoy, Lee spends his lingering days in a feverish state of rancor, constantly attempting to summon the spirit of his beloved Judy. However, Lee must also attend to the job he has assigned to himself: flagellum Dei. With no particular plan of action (for such would rank beneath a man of his being) but with a cane every ready to crack the skull of a cretin or moron, Lee waits and watches for the admittedly remote possibility that he may be recognized as the Great Man he is and then, as such, be given the green light to “take care” of the human refuse that currently pollutes a world that was once filled with dreamers and dreams.
Approaching this work, one should not expect a tidy linear plot that will raise readers’ expectations and then grant them a denouement. Rather, approach this work as one in which random events strung together only by the odd coherence of life allow Lee–a character who will either inspire or disgust (or some mixture of the two)–to present himself on stage in all his hallucinatory and treasonous romance.
Allowing the story to have the final word, I present a few of my favorite lines:
“All his life he had wanted to identify what is was the masses most loathed, and then to see that they got it in spades.”
“Among it all he spotted a splotched woman in jewelry and blond wig with a face that showed she had never read a book.”
“To his thinking, it were far more laudable to have been alive than to be alive, or than to be scheduled for the future.”
“He had to face it: Either these were not really valid times at all, or else his whole philosophy was in error.”
“He was ready to fly to any Past, so long as it took him from every Present.”
“For Lee, there were but two occupations for the serious mind: treason and literature.”
“Think of it! Greed, ignorance. All television and no literature–think! And now any one thing is good as any other thing. Why, I can remember when people used to fall helplessly in love.”
“True, he might well be going insane, and yet he considered it a weakness to be concerned about such things.”
“Himself, he loved romance, romance only. He knew this about his century: no romance. And never will there be any, where majorities hold sway.”
“For it had come to this: that he loved those only who were striving always, and always failing.”
Addendum (15 May 2011): In thinking about Leland Pefley, one thing does disturb me (apart from his amusing but, ultimately, harmless Nietzschean Übermensch antics) is the *apparent* denigration of children in marriage. One quote from Lee comes to mind: “What consumed them [human refuse according to Lee] were precisely those pettifogs he had finished with already–children, money, jobs–life’s rubbish.” Pettifogs? Rubbish? Also, in Fields of Asphodel (a deceased Lee romps through the afterlife in search of his beloved Judy), one of the Dantean underworld torture chambers that Lee visits consists of wives who loved their children more than their husbands. This compartmentalized (hence: sentimental) view of marriage leads, I would argue, to the self-indulgent excesses that Lee so despises in modern society. Granted, I am rather old school in this regard: (in keeping with the Cathechism of the Council of Trent [see Part II, Chapter VII) I believe that one of the primary–if not the primary purpose–of marriage is the procreation and moral education of children. Yes, I know, unitive factors cannot be discounted; however, this being acknowledged, the prospect of children cannot be relegated to a realm of secondary importance, giving obeisance to romance. Contrary to what theology of the body (*via erotica*) apologists might maintain, sexual union should not be justified as a ladder of ascent towards the divine; rather, it should be readily acknowledged for what it is: the duty incumbent upon all able-bodied married people to order their passions–a duty that will lack romance, but one that will teach us how to be better people than the self-indulgent slobs we would be otherwise through the procreation of littler self-indulgent slobs that need our attention.