CAPRICE by George Bowering


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This latest from the Canadian Bowering is both a Western revenge quest and a spoof of the genre--a mixture as unsatisfying as his earlier Burning Water (1980). Caprice is an Amazon out of Quebec, almost six feet tall, a freckle-faced redhead with a lethal bullwhip. It's 1889, and for the past two years Caprice has been a ""saddle tramp,"" riding in and out of British Columbia in pursuit of Frank Spencer, a Tennessean outlaw who shot her brother Pierre over a bottle of whiskey. Caprice is supported by her European ex-husband (of whom we learn nothing), and has a lover, Roy Smith, who teaches indian children. Caprice could have been a teacher herself; she is a published poet, but has not written a line since hitting the trail, and ignores Roy's pleas to leave the dispensation of justice to the authorities. Meanwhile, killer Spencer returns ostentatiously to British Columbia (along with his dumb, psychopathic sidekick Loop Groulx) and the line between hunter and quarry becomes blurred. The teasing cat-and-mouse game ends bloodlessly when adversaries and authorities converge; ten months later, Spencer is hung, and Caprice, no homebody, leaves lover Roy one more time for the never-ending trail. The spirit of Andy Warhol presides over Bowering's self-conscious Western landscape. Caprice, a harbinger of Hollywood, a high-camp Instant Legend, is stalked by both a photographer and a European journalist (""it is my ambition to make you immortal,"" says the latter). Spencer and Groulx pose for the photographer: ""they love getting their pictures taken."" Bowering's distancing techniques undercut his material all too well; his wellwritten action scenes cannot survive in a vacuum, and there are no compensating Mol Brooks high jinks. An all-around disappointment.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking