Lucy Ives

The New Yorker on Loudermilk

What We’re Reading This Summer
June 4, 2019

“Loudermilk,” by Lucy Ives

“Loudermilk,” a new novel by Lucy Ives, is set at a lightly fictionalized Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Ives is either puncturing a myth about Iowa or advancing it; either option makes her book an indulgence. I loved the character of Anton Beans, a “conceptual lyricist” with a baby-bald head and a lush, Abrahamic beard. I loved Don Hillary, the requisite alcoholic professor, who once wrote cowboy poetry and now appears to be “slowly embalming himself as a source of perverse patrician fun.” The book’s title refers to Troy Augustus Loudermilk, who scams his way into the program with the help of his friend Harry. Their division of labor is as follows: Troy, a glorious idiot, goes to class, flaunts his loutish good looks, and tries to sleep with as many coeds as possible; Harry, who is painfully shy, sits in their crumbling apartment—the toilet’s in the center of the floor—and completes Troy’s assignments. The pair’s comic adventures interweave with the more melancholy account of Clare, a first-year fiction writer who can no longer write. Clare, who speaks with a clipped, mysterious precision, is an early indication that Ives’s interests point toward the philosophical, even the mystical. “Loudermilk” is not just funny; it becomes a layered exploration of the creative process, from the “tension that once indicated to [Clare] a beginning” to Harry’s feeling, as he plans a poem, that “he wants to walk backward … The challenge is to get himself to fall.” Ives approaches the students themselves with canny tenderness, and their work (which the novel excerpts, delightfully) with grave respect. Her own language is prickly and odd, with a distracted quality, as if she were trying to narrate while another voice is murmuring in her ear.—Katy Waldman

114.3 KB - 12:54, 8 June 2019