Dieter's first noveI, The White Land (1970), was a portentous, talky, symbol-laden item--but it did at least generate seine...



Dieter's first noveI, The White Land (1970), was a portentous, talky, symbol-laden item--but it did at least generate seine genuine suspense and a harrowing landscape of ShOW and ice. Here, however, as three Utah couples go hunting for buffalo, the sometimes-scenic landscape is less prominent than the tedious chatter, the violence is delivered in an ungainly clump at the end--and the solemn pretentiousness is compounded by italicized prefaces to all 14 chapters: exploits of a prehistoric hunter, underlining the novel's obvious themes. In their early 30s, friends from high-school days, the three couples go hunting in their motor-homes every year. But this year is special since they've gotten, at long last, a license to hunt buffalo: one kill for each man. (The wives just tag along; they don't actually hunt.) Along the way, marital histories and character quirks are aired or mused upon: Bike is a prim, rule-spouting type, married to extroverted, tight-jeaned Karen (a latent feminist); Von and Sandy are the low-key, secretly sensual ones (lots of sex in transit); and the miserable ones are crass Red and hollow-eyed, alcoholic wife Dorothy, inconsolable ever since the drowning death of her only child. The six--more types than real people--talk their way across Utah, then, with seine miner bickering, sexual innuendoes galore, and Dorothy's embarrassing stupors. When they reach the supposed buffalo-herd territory, they drive for days without spotting an animal. (Only Dorothy seems to see one, which is symbolic since Dorothy is the one who thinks: ""God had made the animal to be exactly what he was, a brother to man but a lesser one, and man was to learn the difference and allow for it with an emotion called pity. But he forgot."") Eventually, however, they de find the buffalo--but Von can't bring himself to shoot (he's not really a ""hunter,"" it seems). And it's Red who kills more than his share, rapes Karen (""'You're seine rack of meat!' he breathed""), and winds up murdered himself. . . while Von has the last word about hunting: ""We have to make up out own mind on that. It's a moral thing and we're moral creatures, not legal. I think it's sort of like the poem. A shadow falls on everything we kill. On all the blood we shed. There's no law that can ever change that."" Solemn yet crude, and dull until the gratuitous windup; for provocative treatment of philosophical hunting issues, try John G. Mitchell's non-fiction The Hunt instead.

Pub Date: May 1, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983