THE CLIFF by David IL Slavitt


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Prolific author Slavitt (Turkish Delights, 1993, etc.) deals up a delightful satire that punctures academia with a sure and measured hand. There are two Jack Smiths at the same East Coast university. One is a world-renowned historian; the other is a wastrel adjunct assistant professor with writer's block. Though there is certainly no confusing the two, they often receive each other's mail. When an invitation arrives from a religiously oriented foundation, offering the famous Jack Smith an opportunity to be a scholar in residence at its villa in Italy where he can research and write his book on the capture and execution of Mussolini, the missive is misdirected to his failure of a doppelgÄnger. This Jack Smith is being pursued by his ex-wife for back alimony and about to be dismissed by the college. He figures that a vacation on the Mediterranean is just the ticket he needs. When the historian suffers a heart problem and is sidelined for the semester, the other Jack Smith takes his place (and identity) and skips off to Europe. At the villa, he complains incessantly about the shabbiness of the accommodations and observes the pomposity of his fellow guests. He also delves into possible links between the villa and the death of II Duce. Overcoming his writer's block, he begins a mystery that is only a thinly disguised version of his sojourn. When a poet, whom Smith had wished dead, disappears in a manner eerily akin to the plot of his novel, Smith fears suspicion will be cast upon him. Slavitt deftly takes readers on Smith's journey, a trip that will lead him to self-discovery, spiritual rebirth, success, and a recovery of his relationship with his estranged daughter. Witty and urbane, the book is sure to capture the minds, if not the hearts, of armchair travelers and those who enjoy dark humor with their literature.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 154pp
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.