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Three novellas--sharing a theme of vengeance, Sicilian in intensity but more than a touch gratuitous in insistence, and also sharing Harrison's affected prose style, here at its most pretentious. In ""Revenge,"" a macho ex-flyer, Cochran, dares dally with the young wife of a Mexican mobster in Phoenix; found out, they're brutally beaten and mistreated. After Cochran recovers, he plans his revenge, which, after the bloody business is dispatched and done, culminates in a mildly surprising, treacly end. ""The Man Who Gave Up His Name"" is a 45-year-old businessman who, after early success, examines the shards of his life and decides to change them. A close-to-the-vest type, he quits his job, takes up cooking, gives away his money, and, at his daughter's college graduation party, insults a black drug pusher, which puts him in mortal danger: his only path of action then is doing dirty before being done to. And, in ""Legends of the Fall,"" a cursed-by-fate, rich young man loses all that he loves and mounts up the bodies of his tormentors as symbols of his loss. Set 50 years back, then forward, this story works best because Harrison's prose affectations don't stand out quite so glaringly against the historical background. But everywhere else they do. In narrative, the style ties itself so tight it becomes downright confusing. And then there are dollops of wisdom: ""He was immersed in love distant from the technical strenuosities of what had become a belabored map of sexual ecology where the proper steps yielded everything or nothing."" Or: ""Who reasons death anymore than they can weigh the earth or the heart of beauty."" Between the small-heartedness underlying the unreasonable violence and the gilt-framed prose, Harrison's talent--acclaimed in some quarters and on best display in gentler work like Farmer (1976)--is seen here in the least attractive light.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1979
ISBN: 0385285965
Publisher: Delacorte