WHITE JAZZ by Charles Newman


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It would be hard to find a more up-to-the-minute, glancingly satiric, or uniformly smart book than this, Newman's fourth novel; but if only it were slightly less clever or hip, it might well have been easier to read and to take seriously. Sandy is 25, a computer programmer living in a town that seems defined by its singles' housing and its interstate ramps. The book, day-by-day, follows one week in his numbed life: work (""the rare transducer, the only time you feel alive is when you are transferring energy to another system""); bored, promiscuous pick-ups accomplished at the Cielito Lindo club; and earnest study of his boss Hass' visionary and knottily provocative ideas. (""We are the only animals capable of passing on the sub-assembly of memory, which is to say we are the only animals who pass on defective memory. It's disgusting to waste so much time pondering where you came from. Technically it's true that a machine cannot feel love, respect etcetera. It doesn't bother me. Most people don't either."") Meanwhile, too, Bandy remembers his dead parents' unhappy marriage--in sections of ironic, straightforward narrative: the traditional novelist in Newman seems relieved to shift out of the edgy dot-matrix mode of prose that's applied to the rest. True, some of the writing here (about sex and food especially) is merely preposterous--as are the names (a pro quarterback named Art Entelechy). But virtually every page is charged with Newman's constant cleverness, his sharp intelligence; and the result is a half-experimental novella that's sometimes dazzling, more often merely relentless--with no real shape or pace to the savvy perceptions, the dense intellectual wordplay, the social satire.

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 1983
Publisher: Dial/Doubleday