THE DRUMMER OF THE ELEVENTH NORTH DEVONSHIRE FUSILIERS by Guy Davenport

THE DRUMMER OF THE ELEVENTH NORTH DEVONSHIRE FUSILIERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Davenport's latest collection of dazzlingly allusive fictions seems to be his most explicitly erotic yet--a veritable paean to polymorphous perversity, with plenty of groping, kissing, poking, hugging, and licking. Of the four short pieces: ""Juno of the Veil"" is a vignette drawn from Plutarch in which a statue of the goddess smiles down on man; and ""a Gingham Dress"" records an unusual instance of tolerance for a transvestite boy among mountain people in the Bible belt. But the most characteristic stories here--""Colin Maillard"" and ""Badger""--are preludes to the novella that takes up most of the volume. Both tales concern school-age boys in Scandinavia, the first describing a strange game and a bloody fight, and the latter chronicling the homoerotic adventures of a boy and his imaginary, talking dog. ""Wo es war, soll ich werden,"" a fully-developed and often brilliant work of prose, picks up from stories in Davenport's Apples and Pears (1984), and especially from his The Jules Verne Steam Balloon (1987). He takes us back to that unusual school in Denmark where housemasters sleep with their charges, and where all the boys love to swap clothes, when they wear any at all. Hugo, the classicist and theologian who presides over this frolicking band of chronic masturbators, indulges his taste for philosophical axioms and discourses on the nature of knowledge--relieved only by bouts of sex with his beloved wife, Mariana. The newer housemaster, Holger, from puritanical Iceland, evolves under Hugo's tutelage into a tree sybarite, with a particular passion for young Pascal, a 12-year-old boy genius and ethereal beauty. All about ""the invisible heart"" and the many levels of love, friendship, and affection, this complex narrative is punctuated by a grim reminder of more repressive times--a fact-based account of a boy's hanging for buggery in early 19th-century England. Anyone likely to be shocked by Davenport's highly aesthetical celebration of love between men and boys would probably be uninterested in his demanding work anyway. Aficionados will recognize his classical vision for what it is--the antics on a Grecian urn.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1990
Publisher: North Point