NEWSREEL by Irvin Faust


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Faust's ginger-ale nostalgia--snappy and always a touch over-sweet, looking like harder stuff than it actually is--is poured on here to float from 1948 to 1968, crucial years in the life of one Manny ""Speed"" Finestone. Speed is a magazine writer but, more to the point, he was a field-commissioned captain in World War II; and from then on Speed is never quite able to lose his idolatry of Ike and his faith in doing your bit for your country. True, after the war he joins his brother's left-wing little-theater group (and marries its star, Lucille); he hates and fears McCarthy; and he campaigns for Stevenson. But even so, when Speed gets into that 1952 booth, his finger can't help but pull the lever for the General. Same thing in 1956. After that, of course, Ike isn't running anymore, so Speed finds substitute heroes in the world of sports: Roger Maris, Jim Ryun. And Speed's whole life with women--Lucille, then magazine editor Carla, and finally Maureen (who's married to a soldier in Vietnam, so lust gives way to Speed's helpless patriotism)--is keyed to the rise and fall of his myths, heroes, and love of country. A strong, resonant premise; but it would have been far stronger if Faust had modulated it a bit. Speed is always a shrill presence, and there's a fatal repetitiousness as Faust puts Speed in one situation after another to test his helpless, unfashionable, flag-waving responses. So, despite great energy, a small yet bright central idea, and a good deal of charm in Speed's unshakable despair, the final effect here is one of endless spasms rather than a comic tidal wave, a novel of much socio-cultural savvy but only intermittent pleasure.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1980
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich