Accordion CrimesBook - 1996
A button accordion brought to New Orleans in 1890 by a Sicilian immigrant finds its way into the lives, dreams, fantasies, sorrows, and intimacies of men and women of other immigrant groups in South Dakota, Texas, Montana, Maine and elsewhere
Blackwell North Amer
Accordion Crimes opens in 1890 in Sicily as an accordion maker completes his finest instrument - nineteen polished bone buttons, sleek lacquer - and dreams of owning a music store in America. He and his eleven-year-old son, carrying little more than the green accordion, voyage to the teeming, violent port of New Orleans. Within a year, the accordion maker is murdered by an anti-Italian lynching mob, but his instrument carries Proulx's story into another community of immigrants, the German Americans, founding a town in Iowa. Again, the accordion is witness to an astonishing array of tales as Beutle, Messermacher, Loats and their families make and lose fortunes in the new land.
The little green accordion falls into the hands of various immigrants who carry it from Iowa to Texas, from Maine to Louisiana, looking for a decent life. Descendants of Mexicans, Africans, Poles, Germans, Norwegians, Irish, Basques and Franco-Canadians, they work their way into a harshly racist American culture at the cost of their identity, language and traditions. The music of the accordion is their last link with the past - voice for their fantasies, sorrows and exuberance - but it, too, is forced to change.
A button accordion brought to New Orleans in 1890 by a Sicilian immigrant finds its way into the lives, dreams, fantasies, sorrows, and intimacies of men and women of other immigrant groups in South Dakota, Texas, Montana, Maine, and elsewhere. 350,000 first printing.
Simon and Schuster
Accordion Crimes traces the long odyssey of a button accordion, an instrument made by a Sicilian who immigrates to New Orleans in 1891. Imprisoned in a round-up of Italian suspects after the political murder of the chief of police, the accordion maker is lynched, and his accordion falls into the hands of Apollo, a black steamboat screwman. The instrument begins its long, erratic voyage through 20th-century America, passing through the hands of the descendants of slaves, immigrants and their children, some of whom learn that the cost of becoming American is to surrender the private definition of self.
Accordion Crimes is alive with vividly drawn characters who sometimes meet violent, strange ends, and who, at other times, succeed in a hard world. Filled with indelible images, Proulx's latest novel is charged with sardonic wit and is, at different turns, darkly hilarious and heartbreakingly sad. What we see as the accordion weakens and disintegrates is a haunting and ominous sense of what is America.