Kirkus Star


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More of the absolutely up-to-date news from Tula Springs, Louisiana, the venue of Wilcox's comic jewels. There are fewer outright laughs here than in North Gladiola (1985), but Wilcox has drawn the knot of modern small-town life tighter still--and what's squeezed up, while funny enough, now also profiles a sort of casual corruption and amorality all the more memorable for being so offhanded. Olive Mackie is a Tula Springs matron whose husband is underemployed at a nearby mall, whose son attends a private Christian academy (heavy on creationism), and who herself works for the town's Department of Streets, Parks, and Garbage. That, in Tula Springs, makes her a career woman, on the fast track (quick lunches at the Taco Bell): and while Olive has her hands full watching over an elderly relative, Uncle L.D., she's also free enough to begin a dalliance with the student dentist from New York, Martin Bates, whom she travels to the Gregg College of Dentistry in Ozone to see. Wilcox is one of the best plotters around, and the centrifugal motion he sets up sucks dozens of Tula Springs-ites into the whirl: Uncle L.D. is at one point of murdering his home attendant; Olive gets elected commissioner of the department; Martin Bates ends up sleeping, in a morosely asexual flame of mind, with most of the town's younger women. Everyone does everyone else in--but with a blithe I did that? attitude that makes for the jokes as well as the horror. Not even John Updike is writing this well about American social reality and absurdity--and as the gags rise and then fade into something more melancholy, Wilcox again persuades that he's a master.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1987
ISBN: 0807126993
Publisher: Harper & Row