Already sponsored by Philip Roth (you can see why -- Lelchuk communicates a kind of outrage via outrageousness) this is a...

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AMERICAN MISCHIEF

Already sponsored by Philip Roth (you can see why -- Lelchuk communicates a kind of outrage via outrageousness) this is a scenario of our time and its prime feature is an unruly, importunate with-it-ness. And while there's lots of talk and action -- both uninterruptible -- there's not too much of a story in the conventional sense from sketchy beginning to sometimes no end (500 pages) in sight. Thus on the one hand you have a ""nervous intellectual,"" Bernard Kovell, professor and dean of students at Cardozo (i.e. Brandeis), who represents traditional values -- CIVILIZATION -- even though he has found a way of circumventing them in his personal life. With enviable sack power, he maintains an ethnically diversified portfolio (six in all, from the very rich Melissa to the black Gwen). This inset, understandably and particularly admired by Roth, takes up some 130 pages. On the other hand you have his student, Lenny Pincus, who emerges from enfant terribledom in Brooklyn to become a ""radical halfback"" and public offender. Immersed in Nietzsche, fired up by Mailer, he then shoots Mailer in the butt (Nixon went gentle in a baggie; Mailer it seems is not going to take dying ""with his pants down"" lying down). Lenny then engineers the takeover of the Widener and the Fogg museums (""Picassos tossed away like Del Monte flaps"") and finally heists some ten intellectual humanists, Kovell included, who are to plan a new society. This is really done on a euphoric impulse since ""what Grand Idea did I have in mind? Wasn't our revolt against such nonsense?"" At the end or indeed from the beginning, are you left with any middle way between preservation and destruction, between the ""justness of rebellious chaos and the vengeance of government order,"" between hope for change and the impossibility thereof?. Or perhaps, as for Lenny, there is only the realization that ""It hurts. It hurts. It hurts."" Lelchuk has a scrappy, hypermotor, comic talent to burn and his novel is designed to arrest your attention even where it overwhelms it.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1972