Lula Pace Fortune. Sailor Ripley. Coot Veal. Buford Dufour. Rip Ford. Dalceda Hopewell Delahoussaye. Lefty Grove. Elmer Désespéré. The names alone make this collection a first rate contribution to American literature.
Sometimes (although not often) I have to slog a bit to get through a free book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Other times the magical algorithm reads my tastes perfectly and sends me a book that couldn't do anything else but make me smile -- Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels by Barry Gifford (2010) is just that kind of book.
If you have seen David Lynch's movie Wild at Heart, (which includes one of my favorite Nicolas Cage lines of all time) then you are already familiar with the cast of the first novel in this collection: the star-crossed lovebirds, Sailor and Lula; Lula's overprotective mother, Marietta; and the ill-fated Bobby Peru and his girlfriend, Perdita Durango.
In fact, the second novel in the collection, Perdita Durango was also made into a movie -- I've never seen it, but it has been added to my list. And if you take a second to watch the trailer, you will see that Javier Bardem's haircut in No Country for Old Men is actually not the most unflattering hairstyle he has ever sported.
Gifford wrote the screenplays for both of these film adaptations of his work (as well as the original screenplay for Lost Highway), and while Lynch obviously brought a big bag of his own Lynchiness to Wild at Heart, these books have the same humor, violence, philosophies, and energy.
I won't go through the whole collection except to say that the books as a whole, written between 1990 and 2009, take us way beyond the end of Wild at Heart, through Sailor and Lula's middle age, the life of their son, and all the way until the end of their lives. In each episode, the main narrative shoots out on side stories, brushes up against minor characters with one-paragraph plots (and awesome names), steps up to the radio to tell us of a crazy crime, has a little sex, reads the newspaper for a bit, tells us about someone's dream, and then unexpectedly and inevitably blows apart with a breath-taking (and plot changing) act of violence. And just when things seem like they can't get any worse, an equally unexpected act of violence and some good luck set everything right again.
Oddly enough, even though this collection is sub-titled "The Complete Novels," there is another Sailor and Lula novel that wasn't included, Baby Cat-Face (1995). That the publishers didn't include that novel doesn't make me too sad, though, because just when I thought I had exhausted the Southern mythology of Sailor and Lula, I've found that there is a whole other chapter waiting for me.