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When grocer Marlin dies unexpectedly after gall-bladder surgery in the 1950s, his much-younger, unloving wife Jessie puts in instead with a man named Camel, a florist now in Mexico buying up flower-fields with an eye for export. So the story here--what there is of it--consists of Jessie's contrasting memories: cold, repulsively rigid Marlin, on the one hand; the emotional and sexual lushness, on the other hand, of fluid, attractive, mysterious, kind Camel. And Wier (Blanco, Things About to Disappear), with little apparent emotional involvement in this material, resorts to what is more or less a catalogue of impressionistic fictional techniques, some of them borrowed and all of them hackneyed: minute descriptions of the photos that Jessie takes while wandering about Mexico; paragraphs of sensation that seem like repetitive, gratuitous brushstrokes (""She could have closed her eyes and fallen headlong down into the feeling of his lips, like a current, an undertow in a river dimpling the surface, pulling and spinning, sucking water down deep into itself, like diving forever in a dream, the sudden feeling of free-falling without end""); pretentious, slackly irrelevant references to the Hiroshima A-bomb; and Mexican scenes (grotesque accidental violence, a train-ride) that suggest that Wier has been reading Malcolm Lowry rather too closely. Finally, then, this disappointing novel--repeating the weaknesses of Blanco, not fulfilling the promise of Things About to Disappear--seems merely a sandbox of moods: disjointed, inert, self-consciously literary.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster