Readers familiar with Davenport's cerebral fictions (A Table of Green Fields, 1993, etc.) will find more of the same in his...



Readers familiar with Davenport's cerebral fictions (A Table of Green Fields, 1993, etc.) will find more of the same in his latest collection: a handful of Poundian collages that burst with intellect, and then some tiresome studies in higher pederasty. The former group includes another story based on incidents in the life of Kafka. In ""The Messengers,"" he roams a nudist health spa and contemplates God and redemption. A similar extrapolation from intellectual history drives ""Dinner at the Bank of England,"" in which Davenport imagines the conversation between George Santayana, the aphoristic philosopher from Harvard, and his host, a captain in the Royal Guard, a figure out of Kipling. ""Veranda Hung with Wisteria"" captures in a single paragraph the moment when Poe discovers the essence of Chinese poetry. In ""Home,"" Davenport channels Defoe, in the voice of Crusoe returning to his island after a short voyage in his self-made boat. The crosscut dialogue of ""Boys Smell Like Oranges"" juxtaposes soccer players in a Parisian park with the conversation of L‚vy-Bruhl and the ethnographer Leenhardt, whose trip to New Caledonia undermined his missionary zeal with anthropological relativism. The remaining stories all draw on Davenport's tiresome obsession with uncircumcised boys, all sexually liberated, and frolicsome in a healthy, clean, Scandinavian sort of way. In ""The Meadow Lark,"" boyish innocence leads to exploring the taste of one's sperm. In ""Concert Champetre in D Minor,"" forward-thinking parents approve of their boys' horseplay, the naked posters of adolescent boys on their walls, and their incessant masturbation. The longest narrative, the title story, set in the Parisian demimonde of two sexually liberated women with two young children, is a study in ""urban anthropology, anarchy, and sex."" Inspired by a painting of Delaunay's, the world of football, engineering, and flight serves as a backdrop to more groping, licking, sniffing, etc. Davenport's sophisticated narratives, clever, bristling with esoteric allusions, obscure the leerings of a dirty old man and the cant of polymorphous perversity.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1996


Page Count: 192

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996