A Novel in Verse
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 Clearly an impostor from the first page, this tedious impersonation of a novel by the prolific British poet, critic, and lyricist gets more infuriating as it goes along. The plot of this ``novel in verse,'' such as it is, chronicles the author's family tree from 19061984, juxtaposing it with a highly speculative biography of Boris Pasternak, but we have to take the book jacket's word for this--few readers are likely to discern it on their own. The mannered movement of Raine's strict three-line stanzas veils action, preventing the insight into people and storyline that are at the heart of fiction. Even a rape scene is described with a reserved complacency particular to a certain kind of British verse; then it's on to the next little adventure. Image piles upon image. Anti-Semitism comes and goes, without leaving much of an impression. There are cameo appearances by Yeats, Mayakovsky, Lenin, Marx, and a hundred other famous and not-so-famous figures. In the middle of this messy jumble of family life, politics, boxing, and romance, we find such inanities as ``His socks are hostages,/have been held by the laundry,/pending payment of bills.'' While many of the leaps between carefully dated poems, chapters, and scenes resemble those of experimental fiction (Robert Coover, et al.), Raine's restricted format contracts rather than expands. And there's very little that's ``poetic'' here; for the most part, this is painstakingly chopped-up prose. It is possible to write a highly credible novel in verse--witness Don Marquis's Archy and Mehitabel or William Carlos Williams's Paterson, but these were never forced into categorical pigeonholes. Flatly presented nonsense with a huge and confusing cast. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-47656-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1994