LOOP'S END by Chuck Rosenthal


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The last in the trilogy (Loop's Progress, 1986; Experiments with Life and Deaf, 1987) immortalizing the eccentric Loop family of Erie, Pennsylvania, ends disconcertingly with a greeting-card platitude, after much serf-conscious literary gamesmanship. Jarvis Loop, still haunted by his dead wife Kara and dark, deep thoughts about death and the meaning of life, is unable to sleep, though he works hard at his garbage-collecting job--a job with obvious wider significance (""...waste will be the only permanent thing we leave, the thoughts of garbagemen will be the poetry of eternity""). Meanwhile, son Visitor calls everyone, including the dog, ""Dad""; mother Helen has turned the dining room into a shrine for her collection of obstreperous saints and the effigy of The Infant of Prague; father Red no longer pulls off doors when he's angry, but he is a brooding presence in the house; and brilliant sister Neda has taken up figure-skating. To add to the confusion, the Cubans may have sent an underwater fleet to attack the city; the Vietnam War is beginning to heat up; and Jarvis must change jobs when the garbage union strikes and he's not rehired. Proceeding in a series of set-pieces--a wacky umpteenth Last Christmas with grandmother Bush; a failed attempt by the Dialecticians, the old neighborhood gang, to hijack a military transport plane carrying Jarvis's brother James to Vietnam; and the trial of long-dead Grandpa Fenster, accused of murder and plagiarism--the novel has an underlying concern with the more profound: the legacy of the dead, the power of love, and, biggest of all, the meaning of life. And these questions are more successfully addressed, and often with surprising tenderness, when Helen is found to have a malignant brain tumor. Like its predecessors, a disconcerting mix of moving insights, overdone zaniness, and obvious conceits, but, here, the strains are showing. The Loops are finally out of it.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
Page count: 276pp
Publisher: Gibbs Smith