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THE IDEA OF HOME by Curtis White


by Curtis White

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1993
ISBN: 1-55713-144-9

 Collage of autobiography and invented history in which White (Heretical Songs, 1981; Metaphysics in the Midwest, 1988; ed., An Illuminated History of the Future, 1989) plays trickster-fashion with the myths of California's tract-home suburbs. White quotes Marx: the philosopher ``merely makes objective the relation between his particular consciousness and the real world.'' For White, ``That is to say, one begins at home...,'' and so his own coming-of-age in San Lorenzo (``every plot a garden spot'') is approached as philosophical investigation. The people of this failed utopia play Little League, revere Willie Mays, ``desire to understand the world as the World,'' but southern California also breeds, first, optimism (``LIFE IS BRAND SPANKING NEW''), then skepticism (``Was Disney's Fantasyland supposed to provide a difference that would allow Los Angeles to be `Real'?''). Meanwhile, White alternately provides takes on reality and creations of history: he finds erased Africans and Indians below the surface, brings Caruso to town, tells tawdry truths about a real-estate developer who goes from movie-house masturbation to an adulterous affair, has fantasies about Vietnamese ``Dragon Lady'' Madame Nhu, celebrates the hippie dream of ``discovering new sexes in San Francisco. Who wouldn't want to be in on that?'', and speculates on how revolutionaries become the new power structure, then end up futuristically confined in Kafkaesque ``nursing colonies.'' The metaphysical excursions, while not always enlightening, are never murky; and the prose is lucid, fast, and furious, even though the cleverness is often sophomoric. Overall, however, White's reliance on familiar cultural artifacts make much of the book just that--too familiar.