Young men drift through their 20s seeking connection and direction in these two novellas.
The first of two thematically linked novellas focuses on Solomon, a disaffected young man making a summer road trip to visit school friends. Solomon is crippled by uncertainty and ennui, and as he travels the eastern United States, he has uneventful encounters with other disaffected youth, pausing every once in a while to camp and make garbled, faux-philosophical observations about life. Not much of interest–to Solomon or the reader–happens on his journey. Instead, the narrative relies on several vignettes inserted throughout the story. Eventually it becomes clear that Solomon wrote the pieces about himself and his inability to connect with others, most notably his father. It’s a tired device but lends a complexity that’s absent from the second novella, The Altar of Silence, which is the story of three friends–boring John, wild Jim and brooding Ray. John narrates, but the story centers around Jim, who falls passionately in love with free-spirited Johanna. But Jim is immature and reckless, and Johanna turns to Ray for solace. The story is trite and the characters clichÃ©, but it’s even more problematic that the author made the dullest and least insightful character the narrator. Throughout both novellas the prose is unadorned and strives toward simply elegance, but mostly wallows in the mundane.
Muddled, dull and derivative.