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A philosophical tour de force in three long sections from Swedish writer Gustafsson (The Tennis Players; Funeral Music for Freemasons; etc.). At its best, intellectually challenging in the tradition of Borges/Calvino. Bernard Foy is an American rabbi who gets caught up in an episode of international intrigue involving decapitated meter maids, chase sequences through Sweden and Germany, a computer virus meant to destroy enemy programs, episodes of mistaken identity, and several pigskin briefcases, each containing a veiled message of some kind. Foy, as resourceful as James Bond, is Gustafsson's tool for piecing together apparently disparate bits of information in a wildly implausible but engaging plot that becomes fashionably self-referential, concerned with conspiracy theories á la Pynchon and with its own deconstruction. Finally, Foy goes with his father to Terlingua, Texas, where he encounters Lutweiler--a recurring character who is apparently both dead and alive--and gets aboard a computer-laden zeppelin. In the second section, Foy, an 83-year-old poet unable to finish his memoirs because he's lost his memory, is writing a spy thriller (presumably the first section here). Gustafsson dissects this man of letters in long philosophical and literary passages. Meanwhile, Lutweiler reappears, still attempting to get his hands on that pigskin briefcase, which contains either cocaine or Foy's ""own self."" In the final section, Foy, a gifted juvenile delinguent who is writing a novel that contains poetry, vanishes with Baudelaire's poems into a bog. There, according to ""suburban mythology,"" the dead Lutweiler, or the wild bees in his skull, dictate poems and even this novel to Foy. The narrative comes full circle. Though self-indulgent at times, the book is witty and engaging, and Gustafsson has it both ways: in a ruminative 19th-century voice, he's written a brilliantly contemporary novel, a playful chess game that cancels itself out.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1988
ISBN: 0811210863
Publisher: New Directions