OXBRIDGE BLUES by Frederic Raphael

OXBRIDGE BLUES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Americans probably now know Raphael best as the author of The Glittering Prizes, in both television and book forms--and this collection of clever but rather overdone stories (most told in nearly-all-dialogue) frequently recycles the Prizes preoccupations: fame, envy, the hollow ring of witty, cultured, Oxbridge-accented success. ""The Best of Friends"" are a small-time publisher and a famous academic--old pals and duelists in verbal one-upmanship who haven't spoken in ten years (because the academic was a no-show at the publisher's dinner party) but now meet again, wrangling more viciously than ever. . . with sublimated homosexual feelings rising to the surface. In ""The Muse,"" a famous comic writer (whose delivery is the same as Adam's in Prizes) channels his deeper rages into a cartoony literary alter-ego--until a tough, liberated lady bullies him into adultery and honesty. And in the title story, two brothers are amusingly (if much too neatly) contrasted: bright, cultured, handsome Victor rises in government/academia. . . while oafish, provincial Pip stumbles along, marries poorly, but eventually becomes a paperback-pulp millionaire (the creator of Randy O'Toole, who ""made James Bond seem like a character in Henry James"") and exchanges wives with Victor. In other stories too, away from Oxbridge, the effects are far from subtle. There are ironic parables (show-biz folks trying to settle in the too-provincial country); rather clinical bits of pathological behavior (a young lesbian model breaking into movies via heterosexuality, a homosexual finding true love with a woman who unfortunately needs cruelty from a lover); and send-ups of crass Americans abroad. ""On the Black List,"" however, though equally simplistic, is finely done--as an American painter who didn't really suffer from his 1950s blacklisting (he was in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade) finds a more painful, personal form of blacklisting years later. . . in Spain. And, throughout, admirers of The Glittering Prizes will find enough chunks of that whiplash repartee (better spoken than read) to make this a source of mild, intermittent entertainment.

Pub Date: May 11th, 1982
Publisher: Jonathan Cape--dist. by Merrimack (99 Main St., Salem, NH 03079)