THE WOODS by David Plante
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The slenderest and most evanescent of Plante's impressive, often brilliant novels about the Francoeur family (The Family, The Country), this exquisite book centers on son Daniel (seen here at college age) and his generalized longing: longing for ""an extraordinary world outside him, a world which would come suddenly in the apparition of a body he could not then imagine--."" If he can draw close to this unspecified ""body,"" Daniel feels, he will be able to overcome ""a space beyond this world"" that otherwise so terrifies him (""the woods"" of the title). And so Daniel finds himself trying to focus this feeling--in attraction to his male college roommate; to an older woman named Lillian who's vacationing with her parents on the country lake where Daniel's parents also summer; and even to the possible total loss of body implicit in registering for the draft. The novel, then, written in the remarkably subtle yet clean-of-pretension style which Plante has chosen for these Erancoeur novels, is almost like a tone-poem--with frequently re-introduced motifs of chills and shudders, transparency (a fire in daylight, a lake that appears white), and bodies as collections of separate parts. But more resonant still are odd, individual scenes: the painful trying-each-other-out between Daniel and the equally frangible Lillian; a job that lasts a day for which Daniel must don a peanut suit and walk the streets of Providence, seeing the world through a slit in Mr. Peanut's bowtie. True, some readers will not have the patience for this mothwing texturing, this book where action is primarily more like faint pulsation. But Plante's vision in this remarkable series of novels is anything but lightweight; and those who enter the flickering cove of Plante's fiction and listen for its delicate tone will be rewarded--with music, with ideas, with gooseflesh.

Pub Date: July 26th, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum