PHINEAS and Other Stories by John Knowles

PHINEAS and Other Stories

Email this review


Four previously published and two new stories, including the original model for A Separate Peace (1959). Mr. Knowles' tentative young men -- one a pre-adolescent -- again test the backwash of legislating adults, flounder in isolated impotence, watch warily for a reflecting glimmer from a world, of confounding surfaces. In the Phineas story, identification with another is a snare that confuses honesty and separation, as prep school boys out-parry each other resulting in the crippling of one. The prep school, Devon, also is the setting for the story of a misfit who, in his struggle for a fantasy niche of glory, unwittingly closes off all exits and dies in negation. In two town stories a young runaway, in despair at the uprooting a new baby will cause, returns at the last moment to rejoin the family because ""they were his and he had to catch them""; and a Peeping Tom's futile efforts to recapture the legendary masculine strength of his dead father results in his crime, punishment, and by transference, a release from guilt. The last story further penetrates the legacy of abandoned sons, as a young man travels to Egypt after his father's death, forced to carry his father's ""secret"" message intact to the elder brother. Only when the desiccated relics of ancient Egypt s kings remind him of the finality of death, is he strangely and uncomfortably free. . . The stories, in toto. seem to be plaints of the, prodigals of an earlier day when they still had a taste for roast veal, but they are a moving and welcome reprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1968
Publisher: Random House