HAPPINESS by Frederick Pollack


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This novel in free verse quatrains develops an odd and choppy style, with a jagged syntax, to tell its 32 episodes, set after an apocalyptic revolution. Pollack’s strange utopia results from a time-space inversion engineered by Stephen Hawking, an ally in the leftish revolt. A wall arises, separating —the world we know— from the new —Ardena,— where all incorrect behavior is transformed by the —Avengers of Wrong,— a hit squad of the righteous that heals the sick (from AIDS to acne) and punishes the oppressive, though sometimes they—re —irradiated with/knowledge and redeemed.— We follow the squad as it also gives ghetto kids a —critical language— to understand their false consciousness (sounds suspiciously like Maoist self-purges) and watch the avengers banish recalcitrant abusers and misogynists. The enemy also includes anti-abortionists, religious fundamentalists, and racists. After War Crimes Trials airs on TV, executives are made to shovel toxic waste, and the new art is Stalinist without the lies, though Pollack doesn—t see the oxymoron in this. Just as each character begins to enjoy life—the fat are skinny, the stupid made smart—the revolution falters, the Wall collapses, and Pollack’s dream-time vision turns to nightmare. This utopia built from desire can—t help but reveal its fault-lines, which include confusingly truncated verse.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-885266-58-8
Page count: 124pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998