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The middle-aged quandaries of New York-based (but globally on-the-spot) bachelor journalist Ralph Merian--who has the irritating habit of referring to himself as ""the V.J."" (Veteran Journalist). Ralph's primary crisis: he has met British divorcee Susan Pollet while they crossed paths in Haiti; Susan, an expert in Creole languages, comes to New York for a while on a grant, which puts Ralph up against some very knotty stock-taking. (""Long ago he had discovered that for him harmony consisted in the absence of personal troubles and the presence of immediately engrossing public ones. How clever of him to find the war and revolution trade, how clever to let the years merely roll over him, leaving him older but un-killed--how clever!--and in a state of truce that often felt like peace."") So now, rather than an exciting, cynicism-bolstering international crisis, Ralph is faced with the pleasures of middle-aged love: ""They had grown older and ironic, and tolerant of their condition, and they understood it to be a form of acceptable self-love."" But he must also confront its rigors, the sharp threat it poses to his complacency. Eventually, after his career suffers--a disappointing assignment out west, to cover an Apache tribe gulled into Financing a country singer's Hollywood ambitions--Ralph realizes that he must deal with Susan seriously. . . or lose his own sense of worth in work as well as in love. And he gets a further, jolting nudge towards Susan on a visit to San Francisco to check on his schizophrenic brother Chaz: they meet for a drink (at a gay bar), and Chaz bitterly berates Ralph for impatience--in a wild monologue that brings Gold's chastened hero back to his own life with a new idea in his mind of the impossibilities and necessities of connection. This chapter is Gold at his very best, brilliantly capturing Chaz's obsessive, exhausting, out-of-control talk. (He is fixated on a radio--one that he's been fixing for years, in the belief that Ralph has been waiting for it.) Also effective arc some on-target New York reflections. Otherwise, however, Ralph's middle-aged crisis remains only half-absorbing--too sketchy in many of the sequences (the Apache journalism, the portrait of Susan herself), often marred by the arch, jumpy narration.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1984
Publisher: Arbor House