Kirkus Reviews QR Code
A WORLD QUITE ROUND by Gordon Weaver



Pub Date: May 25th, 1986
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press

Two rather trifling stories fill out a volume that features an excellent novella--all by solid-craftsman Weaver (Getting Serious, Circling Byzantium, etc.), who's been quietly working at his trade for some time now. ""Ah, Art"" and ""The Parts of Speech,"" though competent stories in most respects, nevertheless disappoint. The first concerns a young boy living with his aunt while his parents get divorced. He spends his days with an old artist and his wife, parents of a slightly disturbed man his aunt wants to marry. Youth and old age join here in the way they're (mis) treated; the tale is all mood, rich with the ambiance of Swedish-American life in the Midwest. ""The Parts of Speech,"" less satisfying. frames a conventional narrative--about a young girl's uneventful high. school days and her tragic college year--with some clichÉd; self-reflexive musings. The trite writerly moral (""all fictions are lies"") bears no clear relation to the story's events. ""The Interpreter"" is a first-person memoir of a Chinese soldier during the Korean War, and its narrator, a graduate of ""The People's Institute for the Study of Alien Languages,"" is in an unusual position of power. He's the sole English speaker in an American POW camp. Literally and figuratively mandarin, Li maintains a sense of his own superiority despite the ideological jargon he seems to have mastered. He also tries to teach a redneck from Oklahoma and a pimp from Detroit a lesson in racial tolerance. Dialectics, reason, language: these tools for indoctrination fail to reform these ""dregs of a corrupt bourgeois society."" And no wonder: Li's pompous English is anathema to his prisoners. But language wields power here, as Li's giving out of punishments attests. Yet language without morality or decency ultimately leads to a pointless exercise of that same power. This linguistic cautionary tale exults in its own love of words--a perfect blend of meaning and method.