STEPPING WESTWARD by Malcolm Bradbury


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Stepping Westward trips onto a heavily used set of tracks. Among the horde of precursors to Bradbury are Amis, who has been there lately, and Pamela Hansford Johnson, who has been there more lightly. Mr. Bradbury's observations, nestled into the dialogue and roosting on the transitional asides, are devastatingly quotable, often witty and ruined by his attempt to miscegenate social satire with pathetic truth. His visitor to our templed hills is James Walker, a placid personal incompetent briskly managed by the wife he leaves behind him, who, through the sort of fluke that can happen here, becomes the Writer in Residence status symbol at Benedict Arnold University, crouched on the dividing line between the Old West and the Pacific Coast. Walker, to his own astonishment, had been draped with the mantle of a ""Young Angry"" here, though largely ignored at home. Scholars in the depleted shoals of contemporary lit had even done papers on him. An overlong section of the book deals with his shambling shipboard passage to the New Mad World and he and the reader arrive at B.A.U. weary of it all. Once there, the sharpy prexy, the bumbling department head, the biliously ambitious associate professor, their wives and ghastly children get ray-gunned yet again. Unfortunately, Walker turns noble over a loyalty oath and without his venality he becomes a banality. Too long, too crowded with incident to be saved by the moments of neat butchering Bradbury does on our Body of Culture.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1966
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin