CAST IN DOUBT by Lynne Tillman


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We were a ragtag band of inhibited outsiders, each a secret and keeping secrets from the others. And ourselves, I suspect."" That's how the narrator of this puzzle novel by Tillman (Haunted Houses, 1987; Motion Sickness, 1991) describes the expatriate community that surrounds him on Crete. His name is Horace (or so we're led to believe until we're told in the closing pages, ""Change the name and you are the subject of the story""). He's an elderly homosexual living with a young Greek gigolo, and a writer of crime novels. When Horace develops a strange, largely platonic fixation on a new arrival--a pretty girl named Helen, who, rumor has it, prowled the streets of downtown Manhattan like a black cat and now picks up sailors at the harbor--his penchant for sleuthing comes in handy. The girl disappears, and Horace is compelled to search for her among a band of gypsies in the south of the island. All he turns up is her diary, full of quotes from Patti Smith and odd jottings like ""OEDIPUS WRECKS."" It disappoints him, but later his old buddy from Harvard, Gwen, enlightens him by explaining that in Helen he was looking for himself. ""How tiresome"" he finds it--that he has never really understood anyone because he can't see outside himself. Unlike Horace's, the author's vision is clear--she's produced a handful of sharply drawn secondary characters and a very interior narrative voice that teasingly commands. But she backs away from sense and message by riddling with matters ontological, resulting in a novel that is by turns frustrating and amusing, if slight. Beach reading for the John Hawkes set.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 1852423404
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster