Postmodern Storytelling in John Dufresne's Louisiana Novels

By Shelley Ingram


"Can you have a story that never ends?"

"Yes, if you tell it right"1

John Dufresne's Louisiana Power & Light (1995) and Deep in the Shade of Paradise (2002) are two novels about love and community, the power of memory, and the different ways we tell our stories. But they also exemplify the qualities of postmodern fiction that should be of interest to those who study the connections between folklore and literature. Louisiana Power & Light and Deep in the Shade of Paradise each speak to the process of narrative creation, both literary and folk, and their intertextuality reveals the deep connections between the two discourses. The novels require audience participation and rely on personal narratives to complete their meaning, rendering them dynamic versions of a static form and coalescing their readers into something like a folk group. And both novels show us that literature is not flat–it has width and it has depth. Folkloristics helps us bring out unique aspects of this multi-dimensionality, which is particularly important for understanding these two postmodern, metafictive novels.

Louisiana Power & Light chronicles the birth, life, and death of one Billy Wayne Fontana of Monroe, Louisiana. The last of the cursed Fontana line–"the sickest and the most executed white family in the history of Louisiana"–Billy Wayne was raised by nuns and trained by the hospital chaplain to be a priest, largely in an effort to stop him from procreating (Paradise 2002:23). Billy Wayne is dutifully following their plan until he falls in love, or something like it, with Earlene deBastrop. The story follows the next twenty years of his life as he marries Earlene, cheats on her, divorces her, marries again, cheats again. He and his second wife Tami Lynne eventually have two sons, Duane and Moon Pie, and while Duane may have a bad heart and Moon Pie flippers for legs, the two boys are deeply loved by their parents. There is just the matter of the curse, the one which has afflicted the Fontana men (for Fontana men only sire boys) since 1840, when "the first known Fontana sloshed his way out of the spongy gumbo of the Delta," rising up "out of that sticky, primordial a sin percolating up through the slime of your subconscious" (LP&L 1999:10). It eats at Billy Wayne. His life, he feels, is an overdetermined one, directed by the curse he cannot hope to overcome. It's what drives him to cheat on Earlene, a songwriter and insurance salesperson, with Tami Lynne, and what eventually drives him one last time into Earlene's arms. And this is the moment when tragedy strikes, as both his sons die while Billy Wayne is in bed with Earlene–Duane by electric shock, Moon Pie by suicide. Billy Wayne then knows himself to be "an abomination, the murderer of children, destroyer of lives." He goes out into the bayou and crowns his head with nettles, finally falling blindly into a nest of cottonmouths. He feels his life is but a small price to pay to end the curse and atone for the Fontana sins. Except, of course, that we find out in the epilogue that Earlene is pregnant. Folks around those parts know without question that the child will be a boy; rising from the embers, they think, the Fontanas just don't know when to quit.

Deep in the Shade of Paradise is a sequel of sorts. "This is the story of a wedding," the narrator says, "a wedding that's also a reunion and a farewell, that's also–well, we'll get to all of that in time" (29). Boudou Fontana, son of Earlene and the late Billy Wayne, is eleven now, and his mother's cousin Grisham is getting ready to marry a woman from Lafayette named Ariane. The whole family is gathering at Paradise, the family home in Shiver-de-Freeze, a "place apart," a "kind of Monroe-in-exile" (27). The cast of characters is large, including some that we got to know in Louisiana Power & Light. Earlene and Grisham are joined by their cousins Adlai Birdsong, who arrives with his parents Benning and Royce, and Alvin Lee Loudermilk, who brings with him his wives Lorraine and Ouida. Other relatives, townspeople, neighbors, and friends move in and out of the story, but while LP&L spans decades, Paradise limits itself to just a few days. And by "limits itself," I do mean that the novel actively works to limit itself–the narrator is omniscient and obnoxious, inserting itself through direct address into the narrative, speaking to the reader and for and against both the author and the characters. The narrator says that the wedding of Grisham and Ariane is "not unlike the marriage of imaginations–ours and yours–that results in the experience of the story" (97). So while there are things that happen in Paradise that could be considered plot, like infidelity and marriages and death, the novel is, at its core, about the experience of the story. Dufresne makes this claim explicitly, saying that:

When I finished a draft of the book, I realized that more than anything else the novel is about family and community, and about telling stories. It's about the importance of our personal stories–we are what we remember and what we imagine – and our collective stories–there is no family without a family story, no community without a community story.... Telling stories connects the teller and the tale to the told. (Paradise 369)

It is this idea, that "telling stories connects the teller and the tale to the told," that I explore here, particularly as it relates to the intersections of postmodern literature and Louisiana folklore.

On the Narrator as Postmodern Storyteller

Nobody pays any mind to academics. They're just writing for each other. It's like a pissing contest.2

Postmodern literature in the United States has many variations and permutations. Its play with novelistic structures and formulae, reliance on popular culture, and disturbance of audience reception often works to disorient readers by disrupting our typical reading patterns or bombarding us with a dizzying array of cultural information. Sometimes postmodern literature plays in the shallow end of the pool, weighting ephemeral artifacts like cereal boxes with ironic or transcendent meaning, while at other times it dives deep into history to force its rupture into the present, like having a man escape enslavement on a Virginia plantation by catching a Trailways bus.3 Postmodernism challenges master narratives and rewrites cultural myths, or it shrugs off the notion of narratives and myths altogether. But one thread that runs throughout most postmodern literature is a sense of self-consciousness. The postmodern novel never loses sight of the fact that it is, indeed, a novel, and it forces us to confront The Author and The Text. In other words, we readers are reminded that what we are reading is a construction, something made up and written down. LP&L and Paradise are two such novels. But in them the cynicism of early postmodernism makes way for a softer, more earnest view of contemporary life. As the narrator of LP&L says, "a story, we believe, and perhaps we are out of fashion here, should exert a moral force" (2). Dufresne uses the tactics of postmodernism not to alienate or disorient readers, but to force them to partake in the storytelling process: in short, to make those of us who read these novels part of their folk groups, to connect "the teller and the tale to the told."

The novels are written in a metafictive mode, which means that they refer, in some way, to the process of their own creation. Literary theorist Patricia Waugh argues that "texts tend to function by preserving a balance between the unfamiliar (the innovatory) and the familiar (the conventional or traditional). Both are necessary because some degree of redundancy is essential for any message to be committed to memory. . .metafiction offers both innovation and familiarity through individual reworking and undermining of familiar conventions" (1984:12). This argument bears a striking resemblance to what Barre Toelken has called the "twin laws of folklore:" that folklore is both conservative and dynamic. Folklore thrives in part because of its ability to change in response to context yet retain stable elements that keep it in a recognizable form. Waugh argues that one of the primary tools in the metafictional writer's toolbox is an engagement with such traditional forms, so that the reader has the knowledge necessary to recognize how the writer is dismantling, subverting, or engaging them. Metafiction therefore "offers the recognition, not that the everyday has ceased to matter, but that its formulation through social and cultural codes brings it closer to the philosophical and mythic than was once assumed" (1984:16). Thus one of metafiction's goals is to question strictly demarcated lines between fiction and reality and between "high" and "low" cultural forms. The world of the everyday and the world of the novel are not so different, as they are each constructed through narratives simultaneously innovative and recognizable. Folklorists are therefore uniquely qualified to offer readings of metafictional narratives, as these stories engage with processes of creation that folklorists are intimately familiar with.

So stories are stories, in Dufresne's world, in that they all have a teller and a tale and a told. One of the most obvious way he lays this bare is through the narrator's direct address to the audience. In LP&L, the voice of the narrator often erupts in front of the narrative as an intrusive first-person plural ("So, where are we?") and then retreats into a more subdued third-person omniscient. This narrator is positioned equally as part of the community and as the creator of the text, an intermediary between tale and audience. For example, the narrator says that "When he turned eighteen, Billy Wayne was shipped to a Dominican novitiate up north in Kentucky.... We held our breaths and prayed for Billy Wayne"(16), and at the end of the novel says, "some of us are getting together tonight at Herb and Marilea Bryant's, drink some beers, pitch some horseshoes" (305). Here the narrator is a flesh and blood citizen of Monroe, one who partakes in the many rituals of the community.

In other places, though, the narrator is speaking to the creation of the novel itself. When the narrator asks, "So where are we," it follows by situating the readers among the geography of the novel: "We've got Earlene curled up asleep in a motel. We've got Billy Wayne, his head on George Binwiddie's bony shoulder." Then the narrator promises that "we'll get to Dencil, to Angelo, and the redoubtable Fox Ledbetter, all in an effort to tell the story" (Paradise 40-1). The chapter titled "The True Beginning of the End" explicitly states that "the narrator's job then, is to nudge the edges of meaning into the midst of the mystery" (219). The last paragraph of the prologue includes directions on how to read the novel: "You should read this story with your eyes closed. You're out on Herb and Marilea Bryant's front porch, let's say, and it's dusk.... When the breeze kicks up, you can smell the honeysuckle that grows along Danny Whatley's rail fence. You put your head back. You hear these strange voices" (6). In the epilogue, a professor from NLU shows up at the town's "Great Books" meeting to read his story called "The Fontana Gene." The professor's name is Johnny Ash, a play on John Dufresne's name (as "du Fresne" means "Ash"), and the story is the actual genesis for LP&L. The narrator tells us how to read, and in the process reveals how the story was written.

In Paradise, the narrator is not so clearly marked as a member of the fictional community of Shiver-de-Freeze. Instead, the narrator shares community with a different player: the author. Or rather, it places us all within the same sphere, as the man at the bar scribbling in his notebook, we are led to believe, is the author of Paradise. Here, the narrator plays intermediary between the text, the reader, and the creator. Take this aside: "(By the way, this is not meant as a jab at our own beloved drudge. Our author prefers beginnings to endings and likes to say there are no resolutions:... This perfunctory disregard for incident is precisely why authors have narrators and editors)" (Paradise 74). Or this: "(That's what he says, but you get the feeling he wants to kill someone. If it's a love story why's he loading all these weapons–the curse, the pistol, the lake, the swamp, the infidelity? We're not sure he can be trusted)" (Paradise 155).

Together, these two novels traverse the barriers between author, narrator, text, and audience. There is a moment in Paradise, for instance, where the narrator assumes that the readers are moving from the novel into their own memory: "When you sat there in the attic with Royce and Boudou, you may have remembered a similar visit you took as a child to your grandmother's attic, recalled how hot it was up there.... And even as you read the next sentence–about Royce noticing the woven baskets–you are back in your grandmother's attic looking at photographs of people you don't know" (Paradise 92-3). The narrator asks readers to remember their first love and write down the story on the blank page the book provides, literally incorporating the words of the readers into the physical space of the book. Then, the narrator tells us readers to email the author, if we'd like, so that he can hear our stories, creating a discursive exchange. If the readers follow such instructions (and why shouldn't we?), it makes each and every copy of Paradise different, and it makes the story/ies it tells infinite. The text is no longer static, it replicates in infinite variations.

On Myth and Legend

Narrative has a long tradition here in northeast Louisiana. About the time that Moses was guiding the Israelites out of Egypt, we already had the largest city in North America.... They told their story by sculpting the earth into effigies. Told how they arrived, descending from their heaven on the back of a falcon, how they settled here, prospered, then vanished. All of that just a few miles from where our own tale begins.4

Dufresne was living in Monroe, teaching at Northeast Louisiana University,5 when he started this Fontana saga. He has said that he was "fascinated with [Monroe] because it was so different than any other place" he had lived. His favorite literature had always been southern–Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor–so he felt like he had "lived here long before [he] did" (Bell and Caudle 2001:89). Dufresne was attracted to the cultivation of eccentricity he saw in Monroe and, most especially, to the stories: "In the South when people told stories, they didn't try to get to the point. People in the South knew each other in a way that people up north didn't. They knew the history of the family. Everyone was a potential story; everyone was a narrative" (Bell and Caudle 2001:90). While the romanticism of his particular brand of southern exceptionalism is a bit naïve–especially since he goes on to contrast it to New England, as if New England had no sense of history and region, while paradoxically flattening the history of the South by suggesting a kind of homogenous "southern" folk culture–the central concept, that in Louisiana "everyone was a narrative," is key to understanding why these books are so interesting to me as a folklorist. It is not that everyone knew or had a narrative, but that everyone was a narrative. Writing in a metafictive mode and requiring the readers to incorporate themselves into the text allows Dufresne to follow this idea as far as it will take him. The narrator makes this explicit when it says that "what we'd like to do is tell a story that a million people hear." At the same time, as the author says in response to the narrator, "all you have is one reader–she who holds this book" (Paradise 210). The audience is both an individual and a member of a community–the communities of Monroe and Shiver-de-Freeze, yes, but also the wider community of readers.

But Dufresne also links his novels to traditional mythic narratives, slotting them into the same narrative history as the Israelites and the people of Poverty Point, lending his stories the weight of history and tradition and giving Monroe itself a depth perhaps lacking in a superficial cultural imagining of Louisiana. The narrator of LP&L says that "memory was a myth-making machine. What we do. . .is keep revising our past to keep it consistent with who we think we are" (2). The story of the Fontanas is the result of such revision, of the interaction between storytelling, land, and folk narrative. The family's origin is told as myth, the first Fontana rising "out of that sticky, primordial ooze" of the "spongy gumbo of the Delta" (LP&L 10). It is said that this Fontana emerged out of that liminal landscape of the bayou as a monstrous thing, with webbed fingers and smelling of swamp gas. As the story goes, his descendants went on to wander "the Delta for forty years, claiming to be the Lost Tribe of Israel" before settling for good in Chauvin's Bottom along the Ouachita River (LP&L 11).

From that myth, we get the legendary stories of the lives and deaths of the Fontana men, stories kept alive because "generations of friends have traded Fontana anecdotes over bottles of Jax" and because "parents have been relating Fontana bedtime stories to their children since before the First World War" (LP&L 41). Though the family is always in danger of extinction because of their absurd and often grotesque early deaths (Ransom put honey and egg yolk in his hair and then fell asleep next to a fire ant mound, while "James in Flames" exploded after his dog fetched a lit stick of dynamite), their stories are actively preserved: through the oral tradition of the community, through the work of Professor Johnny Ash, and through local historian Grayson Berard's record keeping, near as he can figure it. Folklorist Bill Ellis has argued that "in and of themselves, legends have no meanings." Instead, "legends compel their hearers to construct meaning" (2001:75). The legends of the Fontanas work within the text to "compel their hearers" to belief or disbelief, as characters are consistently hedging in their knowledge of or swearing to the truth in the legends of the Fontanas. But it is also true that "the reader becomes as fluent in Fontana folklore as are the members of the clan," which allows Dufresne to pointedly reject the construction of a one true master Fontana narrative (Nicosia 2010:701). Because the reader has, since the beginning of the LP&L, been involved in the negotiation of the text, the reader is part of the legend-building process.

As Billy Wayne strives to make meaning of the legends–and as he feels physically compelled by them–he sets in motion the tragic events of his last day on earth. Feeling overdetermined by the legacy of the Fontanas, he returns to Earlene, looking for a savior, looking "to get free of what his daddy had called this genetic knowledge, free of the disaster, the heartbreak, that shadowed his family, every maniacal, suicidal, criminal, diseased one of them" (LP&L 292). But after hearing of the death of his children, he returns to the ancestral Chauvin's Bottom, the murky place from which the first Fontana emerged, to offer himself up as the sacrifice that will bring the cycle to an end. Despite the satisfying symmetry of the Fontanas' beginning and Billy Wayne's end, though, we have been prepared for the moment of Boudou's birth, warned that "your life becomes someone else's story soon as you die" (LP&L 86).

Boudou, you see, is the keeper of stories. He has what appears to be hyperthymesia, an extraordinarily acute autobiographical memory. At the weekend wedding of his cousin, Boudou becomes friends with Royce Birdsong, a man with Alzheimer's. Boudou tells him that he would "be Royce's memory if he wanted him to," so that Royce "can just concentrate on getting better." Offering to accept the burden of another's memory, the essence of what makes a person human, is a simple thing for Boudou, as simple, he says, as "picking lint off a cotton wagon" (Paradise 107). The tragic irony of the novels is that Boudou may have been the only person able to take from Billy Wayne the burden of their shared ancestral past. Instead, all Boudou can do is bring Billy Wayne into the present and, ultimately, the future. While in the Fontana room of the local museum (yes, there is a Fontana room in the local museum), Boudou sits under Billy Wayne's cassock and puts on his old Louisiana Power & Light cap, the one Billy Wayne wore so often. At that moment, Boudou declares himself the end of the curse, a decision no other Fontana had made before him. And we have to believe it to be true. If we shift our perspective to see the whole saga of the Fontanas as one long creation myth, then Boudou is what is created–a keeper of stories who is, at last, able to move beyond them.

On Intertextuality

Tommie Nash said, "Let's do Evangeline. This is Louisiana. It's perfect."6

Dufresne is working quite consciously to question our understanding of the distinctions between the worlds outside and inside the texts, as "readers find themselves both inside and outside of the narrative, just as Dufresne also weaves the extraordinary Fontana family into the history and geography of Northern Louisiana" (Caudle 2001:78). One of the ways he does this is by drawing the reader into the Fontana myth- and legend-making process. Another is through a relentless intertextuality. Intertextuality refers to the relationship between texts, the ways in which textual worlds intersect either through explicit or implicit references to each other. In LP&L and Paradise, Dufresne accomplishes this by drawing upon folk, literary, and popular discourses in his allusions and parodies, his re-working and integration of other styles and forms, and his carefully selected paratexts. For the folklorist, there is the integration of certain folk beliefs and customs, like a barn swallow flying into the house and prompting the exclamation "Holy shit.... [W]ho's going to die?"(LP&L 228), and the long paragraph about the "truckload of folklore and superstitions about death in our part of Louisiana" (LP&L 298). There is the tying of Fontana men to the legendary Jesse James. There are discussions of bottle trees and funeral customs and foodways, like the necessity of putting peanuts in your soda.

But most important is the structure of the novel itself, the ways in which paratexts7 and pastiche work together in a narrative that is "synonymous with the way family storytellers digress, circumnavigate topics, retell communal memories, double back on stories, and fill in gaps" (Nicosia 2010:696). This is a pattern Dufresne saw deeply embedded within the world of northern Louisiana. In the chapter titled "Sweet and Voluble Discourse," for example, the narrator leaves Earlene smiling and sleeping, waiting on her new husband to join her in their hotel room, in order to digress into a discussion on the nature of storytelling, on the reasons why "we can't sit quietly in a room, alone, television off, book closed." The narrator ends the chapter by alluding to "another story altogether" about a Fontana named Winchester–a story that has to wait until later because "we've got our own sleeping couple to deal with" (LP&L 40). This type of intertextuality relies on the readers' understanding of how storytelling works, on the familiarity of oral tradition. This is what Waugh means when she argues that metafiction "does not abandon the real world for the narcissistic pleasures of the imagination," that it instead "re-examine[s] the conventions of realism in order to discover–through its own self-reflection–a fictional form that is culturally relevant and comprehensible to contemporary readers" (1984:18). While the narrative structure may seem strange for a novel, it is utterly familiar as a way of telling a story.

It may appear, then, that Dufresne is not following the conventions of the novel as much as he is following the conventions of oral tradition. But what he is really doing is following the conventions of a novelized oral tradition, if such a thing exists. This distinction is important, as LP&L and Paradise are not about orality per se. They are decidedly textual, and they revel in their textuality. For example, we never "hear" Earlene sing; instead, we see her lyrics function as epigraphs for the different parts of the novels. In fact, Earlene is not a singer, she is a songwriter, one who is shown to be methodical in her songwriting process, drawing equally from rhyming dictionaries and her own experiences. In one scene, Billy Wayne's good friend Fox Ledbetter marks the occasion of his fish-fry by re-writing a section of Chaucer's "General Prologue" that hinges on the word "carp" and giving it out as a menu. A chapter of LP&L titled "Documents" consists entirely of written texts: a letter to Earlene accepting two of her songs for recording, the obituary for Fox Ledbetter, and a page from Billy Wayne's Louisiana Power & Light safety manual. Similarly, in Paradise Dufresne plays with multiple typographic signifiers, such as specialized fonts, inserted images of folk art and sheet music, and lettered lists. And if we take the narrator at its word, the entire world of Paradise results from the mad scribblings of the man in the bar. Textuality is thus not set at odds with orality; instead, both are figured as parts of a storytelling whole. Carl Lindahl has said that "every folktale will bear the stamp of at least three styles: the style of the individual narrator, that of the narrator's community, and that of the type, or genre, of tale being told" (1997:7). Dufresne deftly negotiates all of these realms as he enters into the construction of his own literary folktale.

Another facet of metafiction is that it "draws attention to the fact that life, as well as the novel, is constructed through frames, and that it is finally impossible to know where one frame ends and another begins" (Waugh 1984:29). There are multiple frames employed in these novels, the lines between them sometimes blurred, sometimes tangled. For example, Paradise abounds with epigraphs. But while epigraphs generally establish an intertextual connection to previously published work that a reader may be familiar with, legitimizing the text by situating it within an outside world of letters, here they are mostly comprised of quotes from characters in the book, lines that are otherwise never uttered in the text proper. The epigraphs legitimize the fictional characters, slotting them within a paratextual paradigm normally reserved for references to a "real," authorized world while also referencing the characters' lives outside the story of the novel. Likewise, the extensive and playful use of endnotes in Paradise both disrupts the normal pattern of leisure reading and lends the novel an academic, highly-textualized air. These endnotes also collapse frames, pointing both toward the world of researched academic writing and toward the types of digressions and circling-back that Dufresne links to oral storytelling.

At the end of Paradise, we see Dufresne self-consciously collapse the frames of popular, literary, and folk narratives in the drama performed during the shivaree for Grisham and Ariane.8 Paradise is often read as a re-telling of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but the intertextuality of the novel does not let us be content with just this one allusion. The members of Monroe's "Great Books" club stage the play-within-a-play within the novel for the shivaree: they are folks from North Louisiana playing the characters of A Midsummer Night's Dream dramatizing Longellow's Evangeline, which takes the place of "Pyramus and Thisbe" in the original play.9 For example, Royal Landry (Earlene's ex-lover) is "Shug the Joiner playing Gabriel Lajeunesse" (194). Because the bride hails from Lafayette, the Great Books club seizes this opportunity to hone their creative, interpretive practices and incorporate her local lore.

This play takes place in the chapter "Epithalamium," a title that refers to a form of classical poetry written to celebrate a wedding–as Shug says before the play begins, it is "with apologies to Catallus"10 (278). The chapter is prefaced with the epigraph "I love you once, I love you twice, I love you next to beans and rice," identified only as a "Traditional Louisiana Love Song." During the play, Earlene sings her own song called "In Our Boathouse," the lyrics of which are only given in the endnotes but include lines like "For your love I would / Crawl through Tohu Bohu / For your love I would / Wrestle the Loup Garoup." The loup garoup, presumably replacing the lion of "Pyramus and Thisbe," is played by Cicero the accountant. At one point, Evangeline thinks she sees her lover Gabriel only to be confronted with this loup garoup. "Why Gabriel, what big eyes you have!" she says. "What big ears!" and "what big teeth!" Shug/Royal says "And you, too, gentle audience, have your role to play," telling them that when they see the loup garoup, they should bang their pots and pans loudly to drive him away from Evangeline, incorporating the folk tradition of the shivaree into the drama. This chapter is a moment of intertextual transcendence, collapsing time, space, and region by combining classical poetry, Shakespearian drama, folk music and ritual, the Evangeline romance, the legend of loup garoup, and the classic fairy tale. By dismantling and then rebuilding these multiple frames, Dufresne is making it clear that our world is constructed from all different discourses, that these differences are negotiable, and that the lines drawn between them can never truly hold, including the lines between author, text, and audience.

And so it is the connection between the teller, the tale, and the told that drives these novels. Dufresne nurtures this connection in large part by drawing on the audience's folk knowledge and on the same processes of meaning-making that mark all of folklore. He sees something in the narrative patterns of Louisiana that gives him the room to play with novelistic form, and he makes clear that the success of postmodern, self-conscious fiction often relies, in a startling number of ways, on the integration of folklore into the text. Most of all, he smashes any type of reading and writing practice that would privilege one discourse over another. Everyone, as he says, is a narrative, our lives constructed by and through the words around us, from the legends of the loup garou to the poetry of Catallus. Living in Louisiana gave him the rich field he needed to explore the fundamental idea that, in the end, we're all just stories after all.11


1. Deep in the Shade of Paradise, 321.

2. Paradise, 148.

3. In Don DeLillo's White Noise (1985) and Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada (1976), respectively.

4. LP&L, 1.

5. Now the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

6. Paradise, 167.

7. Coined by Gerard Genette, the term paratexts refer to the elements in a work of literature that surround the narrative proper, like prefaces, tables of content, epigraphs, book covers and blurbs, and author interviews.

8. Shivaree is a custom that was particularly popular in New Orleans in the nineteenth century, but was also popular in rural communities throughout the American South and Midwest. As Mark McKningt describes it, "During a shivaree, a group of friends would gather outside the home of newlyweds, usually at night, and loudly serenade the couple with paramusical instrumentssuch as pots, pans, kettles, or bells, and homemade fiddles or other traditional folk instruments, played out of tune or discordantly. The cacophony would last until the group was invited inside for refreshments, and many pranks and practical jokes would be played on the couple throughout the course of the evening" (408). While not as widespread today, you can still find communities that participate in shivaree. See also "The Charivari in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana."

9. Longellow's long poem Evangeline, written in the mid-1840s, tells the of the Acadian expulsion of 1774 through the tragic story of Evangeline and Gabriel, lovers separated during the forced deportation who are only reunited at the moment of Gabriel's death. The poem has historically been of great importance in south Louisiana, particularly in St. Martin Parish. "Pyramus and Thisbe," another story about star-crossed and ill-fated lovers, is the play-within-a-play that the mechanicals perform in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

10. The first century BCE Latin poet who is most closely associated with the epithalamium.

11. With apologies to Steven Moffat, writer of the Dr. Who episode "The Big Bang."

Works Cited

Caudle, David J. 2001. Postmodern Goes South: John Dufresne's Louisiana Power and Light. In Songs of the New South: Writing Contemporary Louisiana, edited by Suzanne Disheroon Green and Lisa Abney, 77-85. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Bell, Kevin Blaine and David J. Caudle. 2001. Fiction is My Religion: Conversations with John Dufresne. In Songs of the New South: Writing Contemporary Louisiana, edited by Suzanne Disheroon Green and Lisa Abney, 87-98. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Dufresne, John. 1994. Louisiana Power & Light. New York: W.W. Norton.

---. 2002. Deep in the Shade of Paradise. New York: W.W. Norton.

Ellis, Bill. 2001. Aliens, Ghosts, and Cults: Legends We Live. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Genette, Gerard, and Marie Maclean. 1991. Introduction to the Paratext. New Literary History 22 (2): 261-72.

Lindahl, Carl. 1997. Louisiana's Folktale Traditions: An Introduction. In Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana, edited by Carl Lindahl, Maida Owens and Renée Harvison, 3-26. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. [1847] 1965. Evangeline. New York: Airmont.

McKningt, Mark. 2005. Charivaris, Cowbellions, and Sheet Iron Bands: Nineteenth-Century Rough Music in New Orleans. American Music 23 (4): 407-25.

Nicosia, Laura. 2010. Making Sense of the Lunacy: Synesthesia, Paratextual Documents, and Thoughtless Memory in John Dufresne's Deep in the Shade of Paradise. Mississippi Quarterly 63 (3/4): 695-704.

Waugh, Patricia. 1984. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-conscious Fiction. London: Methuen.

This article was first published in the 2016 Louisiana Folklore Miscellany. Shelley Ingram is an Assistant Professor of English and Folklore at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.