METAPHYSICS IN THE MIDWEST: Stories by Curtis White

METAPHYSICS IN THE MIDWEST: Stories

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of nine farces--full of sound and fury--by the author of Heretical Songs (1981). While several here are zany and successfully absurd, most seem to signify nothing--strained or overdone, they howl glibly at the moon. In the title story, a professor of metaphysics gets involved with two of his female students and plays statistical baseball in bed with a ten-year-old boy. Wild and woolly, the piece lampoons everything from meditation to dildos: the Professor, found out by the boy's mother, ends up committed. ""Howdy Doody is Dead,"" reminiscent of Max Apple at his most manic, is a fractured fairy tale: Howdy survives a tortured childhood but late in life must face his dybbuk, Double Doody, a devil puppet. Other stories are less successful: in ""The Phantom Limb,"" a mother complains about an ache in her phantom arm--an arm that she still has--and the author sophomorically expostulates on her Malady and its ritualistic cure by the Dance of the Countless Grievances. ""More Crimes Against the People of Illinois,"" at times a lovely fable about Sears and Roebuck as guardians of public morals, goes on too long--as does ""Critical Theory,"" which parallels the narrator's race across the country to visit his daughter with the automobile travels of philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno in 1941. It's finally more pretentious than amusing ("". . .disgust, guilt and dread had finally overwhelmed my indulgent toying with self-destruction""). ""The Order of Virility,"" part genre parody and part practical joke, and ""Malice,"" a grotesque tall tale about genitalia, try (with only partial success) to crossbreed Flannery O'Conner and Sherwood Anderson. White is often too glib for his own good--a potentially solid farce will get stretched too thin--but there's lots of manic energy here, and readers who like their metaphysics served up in cartoon fames may revel in it.

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 1988
Publisher: Sun & Moon