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July's Book
Kentuckiana
by Johnny Payne
Kentuckiana is a metafictional romp through one of the most hilarious, fascinating, and dysfunctional neighborhoods in all of recent fiction.

Payne’s comic novel is an uproarious tour through a suburban slice of the working class. Set in a decidedly postmodern Appalachia, Kentuckiana focuses on the lives of the Miles family. Invented by a real-estate developer who is authoring a report on the neighborhoods he has created, the imaginary Mileses and their neighbors populate his Garden Springs subdivision in Lexington, Kentucky.

As introduced by the real-estate developer, the members of the Miles family—Jean, the hardworking alcoholic father; Constance, the long-suffering mother; Judy, Elaine, Stephen, Talia, and Lynette, the feckless but resilient children—compete for time and space within the narrative. Tracing the family’s progress through the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s, Kentuckiana introduces us to the folkways, drugs, sex, schemes, bruises, and theatrics that color the everyday existence of the Mileses.

Once the real-estate developer has presented his creations, the members of the Miles family take on life and speak in their own voices; as the narrative is furthered by each successive imaginary narrator, the lines between fiction and reality become increasingly blurry, and the high-strung Miles family seems to seize control of its own rollicking existence. Finally, as the real-estate developer begins to plan for his own retirement, his son Junior must buy out his father’s business—including the Miles family narrative—and, in falling in love with the imaginary Elaine Mills, is forced to question his very own existence.


“Deeply literate, darkly funny.”
—Publishers Weekly

Kentuckiana is a grand lowlife epic, a touching, sometimes hilarious and oddly delicious wallow.”
—San Diego Union-Tribune


Johnny Payne has collected Quechua folktales in the Andes; taught in the English department at Northwestern University; published fiction in Triquarterly, Southern Review, The Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere; and had his play, The Devil in Disputanta, produced in Chicago. His previous novel is Chalk Lake.

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