DANGERFIELD by Barnaby Conrad


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Conrad's first novel since Matador (1952) seems wholly unrelated to anything else he has written and in some ways would seem to be earlier vintage. It is a rather tragic story of the disintegration of a man who has achieved literary fame without, at the same time, arriving at any understanding of his own limitations. The plot revolves around the excitement engendered when his new and long awaited novel, The Prelate, is to be published. Known as an iconoclast, Dangerfield this time has tampered with a ticklish subject for attack, the Catholic church. But he is convinced that this is his best book -- that it will receive plaudits from all (except Catholics) -- and that it will cement the achievement of his goal, the highest international literary award. And then- through the eyes of the 22-year-old son (he seems much younger), David, visiting the father known to him only as an image of greatness, we follow the complete collapse of what is after all a somewhat hollow figure. The Prelate is reviewed- even by Dangerfield's friends -- as a disaster in his career; the award fails to materialize; the hardwon sobriety cracks under the strain; a quarrel with his best friend- and severest critic- ends in disaster; and his son falls in love with his mistress. It is an uncomfortable sort of story; the physical resemblances- and some of the personality eccentricities- make identification with a certain American writer unavoidable; and the cataclysmic collapse of everything at the close smacks a bit of panic melodrama. A disappointing book- despite its readability- a writer of Conrad's stature.

Publisher: Harper