THE LAST MAN STANDING by George Chambers


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A close-focus mosaic of family life: while not as imaginative and quirky as his story collection (O Null Set, 1977), Chambers' novella-length fiction uses structural innovation to good effect, turning the reader to eavesdropper or voyeur. The story covers the four days following the death of a tyrannical father (who was also a much-admired ""great man"") as seen through the eyes of one of his sons who flies to Boston from the Midwest for the funeral. The middle-aged narrator must cope with his alcoholic brother, his rich, selfish sister, a blind stepmother, and his own philandering desires--but most of all with the continued hold of his father's looming figure, which inspires admiration and thwarted love as well as murderous fantasies. In ambivalent memories, Father lobs cans and oranges across the kitchen table for his young sons to catch, warning ""Heads up!"", then ""Grenade!""; the young boy runs anxiously from room to room asking, ""Where are you Fa-Fa?""; he watches the great man take out his military sword and waits to feel the blade enter his back. Chambers has divided his pages into two columns, with headings (such as ""Brother,"" ""Last Words,"" ""The Will"") on the left, and corresponding text--often brief--on the right. This split-page device never becomes distracting: vivid scenes, images, and recollections of dialogue follow in an almost hypnotic flow. Spare, subtle portrait of a family in pain: proof that fictional experimentation in skilled hands can yield gold.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0932511198
Publisher: Fiction Collective Two (Illinois State Univ., Normal, IL 61761)