Three long pieces--subtitled ""Stories of Fathers and Sons""--that are often expertly rendered but egregiously unoriginal....



Three long pieces--subtitled ""Stories of Fathers and Sons""--that are often expertly rendered but egregiously unoriginal. By the author of two spy novels--The Soul of Viktor Tranko (1987), The Zolta Configuration (1985)--and a book of nature-essays, Natural Acts (1985). Closely observed nature vivifies the first of these stories (""Walking Out""), an adventure story about a fatal hunting accident in Montana--although its slavish Heming-wayisms both in conception and style rob it of even the faintest trace of any voice of its own (""The boy knew his father was lying His father often said things were easy, when the boy knew they were not. Then the boy hit his first grouse. The boy did not know whether he had hit it or not, but his father said that he had""). ""Nathan's Rime"" fares somewhat better--the comic-grotesque story of a tyrannical father who raises snakes for a living as a kind of side-show on a country highway--though the author reaches for a heightened dramatic significance through a frame-within-a-frame technique that overblows the story and makes it more pretentious and breathless than gripping. This, though, is as nothing to the long ""Uriah's Letter,"" a southern history-guilt-and-gothic tale that, in its excellence of execution and detail, does not so much owe a debt to Faulkner as achieve a virtually wholesale commandeering of his manner, method, and even content, from the Civil War long-lost echoes of Absalom! Absalom! to the macabre bizarreries of ""A Rose for Emily,"" to the guilt-despairs of The Sound and the Fury (including a carbon copy of Quentin Compson going to cold-aired and scentless Harvard and contemplating suicide), to the language itself that, great once in the master's grand voice, becomes merely windy and pretentious in the rewarmed and second-hand dramatics of the slavish--or wide-eyed--copiest. Literary echoes at best, shameless clonings at worst.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1987