OBITUARIES by Bernard Kaplan


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Six fanciful exercises in metaphysics and dramatic irony, which feature moral trials set against a capricious reality. Such peculiar things are likely to happen in Kaplan's world that duty is never what it seems to be. ""Cynara Remembers"" builds to a climax when the girl sociologist commits suicide after her husband thwarts her inquiry into human nature. Ultimately she becomes responsible for ""having doomed the world"" by refuting her own theory of the primacy of ""cooperation."" The title story has a clever premise--the protagonist writes obits to order for the living, a business he began when he was mysteriously coopted into aiding the Vietnam effort. Like Cynara's, his do-gooding backfires in his face. ""Sperm in the Sea"" is a traitor's rationale for doing research for the enemy in WW II. The heroine of ""The Highlight of My Life"" wants to save her husband's bones from a martyr's grave by burying each separately on the old Chicago World's Fair grounds; and ""Lingering in Egypt"" is a fable about a Jew who executes his son in a blood-drinking rite to avert a pogrom in the state of Rhode Island. They are tantalizing parables which nonetheless seem hamstrung by their insistence on reversals and deus ex machina solutions. On one hand, they are symbol-laden; and on the other, nonrational. In traditional surrealism, morality is the butt of the joke, but Kaplan has it both ways when he pits superegoistic characters against an absurd as well as conscienceless First Principle, leaving the reader somewhat in doubt about the contest's outcome or its significance.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1975
Publisher: Grossman/Viking