THE PROSPECT OF DETACHMENT by Lindsley Cameron

THE PROSPECT OF DETACHMENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fifteen mainly satiric and glibly intellectual stories that are highly accomplished in delivery and often vacuous in substance. With fleeting allusions to Swift, Beerbohm, Jane Austen, and Henry Fielding, Cameron here launches mini-satires of pet-lovers (the title story is told by a snooty housecat just enough smarter than its owners to avoid castration); inept Americans abroad (an uptight woman in Japan is jealous of another's ease with the locals in ""Much Ado in Mushi-Ji""); snobbism in the music world (a callow contender for the inside track is humiliated by jaded name-droppers in the show-offy ""Conversations with Satellites""); and varieties and layers of pretentiousness about art and life: a woman, for example, wants to remove the erect penis from a said-to-be-brilliant sculpture--created in memory of an AIDS victim--because it would alarm her houseguests (""The Angel of Death""). Cameron's intelligence is alert but not deep, with the result that pieces like ""Hell on Wheels"" (straight and gay sexual politics among office workers) and ""The False Princess"" (a droll retelling of the princess and the pea) can captivate with their tony smartness but then degenerate into the truncations and easy reversals of the sit-com, or into the throwaway one-liners of the stand-up comic ("". . .when all along I was a latent asexual""). Weakest here are ""Tooth Fairy"" (a torturedly coy story about an unhappy wife with tooth trouble and her imaginary--gay--friend) and the thin, topic-driven ""Gospel for a Proud Sunday"" (about AIDS and Gay Pride). The balanced polish and economy of Katherine Mansfield echo in a handful of less satiric pieces like ""After the Ball"" (mothers misunderstanding daughters) and ""Corporal Punishment"" (a father's thoughtlessness), but their studied slightness makes them feel like early exercises padding out the volume directionlessly rather than being part of the whole. Frustratingly bright work without a flesh-and-blood subject to nourish it. A mother asks, as if apropos of this book: ""Did I want Lolly to grow up like me: all dressed up mentally, with no place to go?

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1988
ISBN: 0312054963
Publisher: St. Martin's