MORE SHAPES THAN ONE by Fred Chappell

MORE SHAPES THAN ONE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Southern poet and novelist Chappell offers 13 stories that use conventions of genre writing to metaphysical and metaphorical ends: these are marvelous renditions--sometimes exuberant, sometimes meditative, arcane or antic. A number of the stories play fictional riffs on the biographies of well-known historical figures. ``Weird Tales,'' for instance, recounts four meetings between doomed poet Hart Crane and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. While doing psychologically realistic justice to Crane's possible delirium before he committed suicide by jumping ship, the piece posits a new mythology presaged by the meetings--``the reawakening of Dzhaimbu and the other worse gods, under whose charnel dominion we now suffer and despair.'' In ``Linnaeus Forgets,'' set in 1758, the famous botanist receives a box with a strange plant from a distant island, and the plant's otherworldy transformations become a metaphor for the attainment of serenity and a kind of wisdom. Likewise, in ``The Snow That is Nothing in the Triangle,'' Fuerbach, once ``The Pope of the Theorems,'' now theorizes Ö la Wallace Stevens, talking a metaphorical language that his students interpret as senility. In other stories, such as ``Mankind Journeys Through Forests of Symbols,'' the weirdness becomes less metaphysical and more antic: Balsam, a North Carolina sheriff, and Dr. Litmouse, a scientist, team up to dissolve a dream (500 yards wide, two stories tall) that is blocking Highway 51; and in ``The Somewhere Doors,'' an obscure sci-fi writer in North Carolina meets a woman paid ``to deliver messages to people they think are important to their way of looking at things.'' ``After revelation, what then?'' one story asks. Chappell provides answers in these inventive tales--answers that are by turns as circular as Borges, as richly symbolic as Kafka, and as zany as Woody Allen.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-06418-7
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991




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