Maillard's first novel (after Hazard Zones, 1996, etc.), reissued in a new edition (with an afterword by the author) exactly...



Maillard's first novel (after Hazard Zones, 1996, etc.), reissued in a new edition (with an afterword by the author) exactly 20 years after its first unveiling in Canada. Anyone who knows Maillard only from the intricacies of his recent work--especially his current work-in-progress, the Raysburg Trilogy--is in for a big surprise. This debut effort is a '60s fantasy that would have given Pynchon heartburn and kept Philip Roth awake at night. Leslie and Alan are the center of attention, and both have some real problems. For one thing, they are, quite literally, the wrong sex: Alan is a hairdresser and Leslie is a professional swimmer, and each is convinced that the absence or presence of a Y chromosome is what makes life worth living. Although genetics can't save the day, magic realism does, and the concept of gender becomes at first fluid, then meaningless, then finally redemptive in some way that can't be and probably doesn't need to be explained too coherently. There's a lot of mirror imagery involved, and Leslie and Alan find that their shortcomings and needs (Leslie has two brothers and no mother, for example, while Alan is fatherless and burdened with sisters) complement one another perfectly, albeit not in any traditional matrimonial fashion. Meanwhile, the other characters, though just as bizarre, breeze in and out of the narrative like supporting actors in a drawing-room comedy, calling little attention to themselves. An elderly woman named Mildred serves as an excuse to work the symbolism of the Tarot deck into the plot, and there is a general obsession with esoterica throughout, contributing to the impression that this is largely a tale fashioned more from atmosphere and tone than plot. Long established as a cult classic, but only for somewhat rarefied tastes. One of the best gender-bending novels now in print.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996


Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins World

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996