THE DEATH OF DESCARTES by David Bosworth

THE DEATH OF DESCARTES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bosworth's intelligence--schematic, serious--is apparent throughout this first volume of short fiction, winner of the Heinz Literature Prize. In the title story, a retired detective living in Maine enters the case of a dead physicist--but there's no corpse, the wife is as good as confessing, and the detective is finally forced to wonder: ""Was there ever an etiology, a chain of facts to be relied upon? Could one ever close one's eyes while at the brink, on the edge, and still be sure?"" In ""Excerpts From A Report of the Commission,"" a Sixties-through-Seventies marriage is charted, start to finish, with documentary-style jump-cuts to societal changes at each step: ""A couple liberated, a couple separated, come of age, feeding on the strange and bitter fruit of this unexpected decade. . . ."" But as intellectually alert as Bosworth is, only one story here is completely satisfying, shucking pattern in favor of continual and vividly defined surges of feeling. This is ""Psalm""--in which a young couple makes the early-morning drive from their home in the mountains to the city for their sleeping little boy's twice-weekly cancer chemotherapy treatments. The father, a painter, keeps noticing as he drives the astounding richness of the dawn, the hills, the physical world--a world which his wife, in contrast, has irrevocably cursed for letting such misery happen to her child. But the painter can't help it: beauty becomes an intrusion of innocence in addition to one of guilt. It's a fine, resonant, beautifully written story, apulse with deep texture--and if, unfortunately, it makes the rest of the pieces here seem a little bloodless, it is also the strongest indicator of Bosworth's considerable potential as a fiction writer.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press