TESTIMONY AND DEMEANOR by John Casey
Kirkus Star

TESTIMONY AND DEMEANOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Four long stories--from the young American writer who comes closest to dealing comfortably in the kind of rich, resonant sentences favored by the master of the long story, Henry James. Casey's title story here, in fact--with a young-lawyer protagonist, an older partner in the firm who displays an exquisite sensibility, and a finely cultivated woman whom the young lawyer finds himself involved with--reads like an updated diorama of The Ambassadors; and it holds its own in that company, too. Indeed, all four stories in the collection feature young men whose aesthetic senses and recognition of intellectual privilege are needle-fine. A college-educated ironist becomes field sergeant of his basic-training troop at Fort Knox. A young Washington bureaucrat, pressed casually into doing intelligence work, discovers the physics of friendship and what it means to puzzle out a personal life: whether to settle for bits or hunger after the all. And in each story, there's an amazing richness of observation, nuance, and tenacious smartness; unfortunately, also like James, there are long marshy middles of ravishingly tooled thought with no action whatsoever--sometimes Casey scrapes so fine that he turns fuddy-duddy. But the best story here invites comparison with Casey's own expansive An American Romance. Called ""Connaissance des Arts,"" it's about an instructor of English at the U. of Iowa, the freshman farmgirl who has a crush on him, and the reversed accretions of life and experience they unwittingly trick one another into. We've never read a better story of academia; Casey's fascinations crowd one another--emotions, class, the look of landscape, the feel of flesh--and the overall effect is so absorbing that you'll be hoping the story will never end. For an audience prepared to read carefully, this story is pure joy--and this whole collection is a rare gift.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1979
ISBN: 037571930X
Publisher: Knopf