TIGHT WHITE COLLAR by John L'Heureux
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TIGHT WHITE COLLAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Poet L'Heureux's first novel tells the satirical tale of a struggle for freedom in which a cleric attempting to rise to his vocation grimly flaps through absurdities like a seagull in sneakers, Father Ransom, a handsome and hapless young Jesuit, is a vulnerable Pnin, who suffers from guilt, stolid despair, and the errors of a nervous stomach. He's coerced into appearing at a Protestant funeral, and, as usual, glumly hopes for a performance of simple adequacy. Although a day at home, at the funeral, back on the train to New Haven, somehow does end in no major exterior disasters, small ruins attend the progress of Ransom who promised to serve until his ""goddamn arms fall off."" On the train a nasty child drops a sticky lollipop on his breviary and her mother accuses him of stealing it; his knees crack and armpit stains occur at crucial moments; his brother is patronizing; his mother mourns a dead brother at someone else's funeral; and he vomits in the men's room. All the while Ransom vibrates out of tune as he mulls parental rejection, the ego-pricking prognosis of a Harvard psychologist, and the peculiar negative drift into the priesthood. At the close a letter from a former nun scores him for spiritless passivity. But his private revolution finally begins in a noisy revelation -- when passengers rally to put down a bullying candy man on the train journey home, indicating some hope for an uncharted humanity. This keeps him ""sane, unselfish. . . and honest"" until he leaves the priesthood some years later. Ring-around-the-collar but with a serious regard for a good if muddled man trying to do ""what he ought.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1972
Publisher: Doubleday