The narrator of this farce-cum-allegory-cum-fivepenny-dreadful is anyone but the Paris-based New York Times columnist...

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THE TOOTH MERCHANT

The narrator of this farce-cum-allegory-cum-fivepenny-dreadful is anyone but the Paris-based New York Times columnist Sulzberger himself, but rather a Felix Krull of the international demimonde, an Armenian with convenient 17-language gifts and spectacular lustiness of word and deed. This hero, Sasounian, is blackmailed into spying for the Soviets against NATO; then, through a series of weird and colorful Middle Eastern agents and relatives, he has a love affair with a guardian of the ancient dragons' teeth of Cadmus which, you recall, sprout soldiers when sowed in the earth. Sasounian's effort to sell this supply of Homeric troops gives rise to a really quite comic series of episodes. The first is the best-developed: when three spearmen rise from his lawn, Stalin keels over in fright and Beria finishes him off. Sasounian then hops through various Durrellian encounters with Copts and Druses to further tryouts of his dragon seeds. The Greek insurgents of Cyprus and the Israelis headed by Ben-Gurion turn down the sale because the soldiers would lack allegiance to their cause; Nasser in turn plunks Sasounian in jail for consorting with Israel. The NATO chiefs are thrilled by the prospect of a truly supranational and readily mobile force to meet their manpower shortage, but Eisenhower anticlimactically nixes the idea as ""old-fashioned,"" the seeds are thrown into the sea, and Sasounian ends up as an improbable pimp in Paris. Trading on closeups of the famous and happily avoiding the thumps of the true parable, Sulzberger elicits the three most suitable responses to his genre -- amusement, suspense, and dismissal.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Quadrangle

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1972