The Very Air

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“Suspenseful, poignant and irresistibly entertaining… Bauer makes some wonderful observations about life in America during the 1900s, and about humanity’s eternal need for illusion, and his characterization is sharp and funny.” —Publishers Weekly

“[An] engaging and episodic romp through the first half of the 20th-century… A classic tragedy of hubris… An imaginative lark in the Doctorow vein… rough-and-tumble fiction that exults in its inventiveness…” —Kirkus Reviews

“Chillingly eloquent and very much in the American grain.” —Newsday, Dan Cryer

“. . . the rise and fall of that quintessential American hero, the salesman; the ending of Hollywood’s golden age; the birth of broadcasting. It is material in which Mr. Bauer justifiably delights and, when he is at his best, is more than a match for…. a very funny book.” —The New York Times Book Review, Robert Houston

Luther Mathias sells “snake oil” in scrubby West Texas dirt towns. He learns that substance is never a substitue for style and eventually develops his own remedies that promise to cure any ailment a man might suffer. In time his imagination and ambition combine to mold him into medicine’s version of Elmer Gantry: loved and hated, imponderably wealthy and famous, powerful and pursued.

More than just a portrait of a flamboyant, resourceful schemer, The Very Air is a compelling exploration of human motives and hidden meanings. It is a detailed picture of America’s myth of the rugged individual in the psychological and narrative tradition of The Great Gatsby and Citizen Kane. With a resonant sense of the period and culture, Douglas Bauer evokes the freewheeling feel of the old Southwest in the early part of the century and delivers an allusive commentary on the charlatans of our own era. The Very Air shows, through storytelling both exhilarating and chilling, that the past is prologue and that our personal histories indeed shape the course of our individual futures.

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