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by Frederic Tuten

Pub Date: June 21st, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-12314-7
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

 Like Tallien (1988), etc., Tuten's latest is conceptually interesting and quite the rage--a post-mod mix of high and low culture. But not all hip ideas translate into compelling fiction. Reminiscent of Jay Cantor's Krazy Kat, Tuten's ponderous fable reimagines the famous Belgian cartoon character, Tintin, in a grown-up world peopled with refugees from The Magic Mountain. Tuten thus fills in his comic-strip word balloons with dialogue from an old-fashioned novel of ideas. Once an ``incorruptible, a natural spirit, a blond elf,'' the stunted boy-man discovers himself in the greatest adventure of his life. In Peru, on Machu Picchu, Tintin, his faithful terrier, Snowy, and his sidekick, the salty sea- captain Haddock, encounter Clavdia Chauchat, Peeperkorn, and others from Mann's classic. In the New World, they must all reconceive their purposes in life. These rather inanimate talking heads debate the merits of revolution, the value of art, and the designs of power. Meanwhile, Tintin falls madly for Clavdia after a night of wild passion, a moment so fraught with meaning that it leads to an elaborate dream of their future together. But Tintin's vision of contentment at his retreat, Marlinspike, is dashed by the decadent Peeperkorn, who reveals Clavdia's history of madness and nymphomania. Tintin grows, his voice deepens, he broods. He pushes Peeperkorn off the mountain edge and embarks on his last great adventure. High on psychedelic mushrooms, he flashes on ``the Grand Spectacle of the New World'' and sees himself as the fulfillment of ancient prophecy. A beggar in Lima, a shaman in Brazil, Tintin finally submerges himself in the Amazon, at one with the primal forces. HergÇ meets Mann, and the result would be as delightfully silly as an Abbott and Costello movie if Tuten didn't take all this so seriously. But, alas, he does, and the reader must suffer through his arch prose, with its pretentiously elevated diction.