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THE PENNY WARS by Elliott Baker Kirkus Star



Pub Date: July 7th, 1968
ISBN: 0595376649
Publisher: Putnam

The siderable talents of the author, employed to exuberant purpose in A Fine Madness (1964), sober down to searing participation via the lacerating progress of a teen age boy in a small upstate New York community of the Thirties. Sixteen-year-old Tyler Bishop, like most sensitive adolescents, absorbs into himself the alien distance and the bumbles of hapless adults, takes on the responsibility of lives travelled beyond him. War explodes overseas, punctuating ""One Man's Family"" and Major Bowes. Tyler's allegiances shift from his restless mother, coping with a defeated husband, to the terrible weight of his father's death. Enter Claudius, in the form of unpleasant Dr. Axelrod, fabled Jewish refugee cousin of a neighbor, whose German identification is a fine distinction elusive to Tyler. His attempts to succeed in sex, to seek out the gallantry of a just war, lead only to blind alleys of circumstance and expediency. Dr. Axelrod's suicide crumples for Tyler the last vestiges of a faith in the magnitude of personal potency. Tyler's final existential act of responsibility has no efficacy in a meaningless world of penny wars. There are moments of high-spirited humor (a Major Bowes audition; gay youthful obscenities). Although the hammer blows fall too extravagantly for belief at times, Mr. Elliott has created a moving portrait of a young man entering a consciousness where all stirring battle calls splutter out in a Bronx cheer. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner on Main Street, cogent and involving.