BUTTONWOOD by Maritia Wolff


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Pity the poor reviewer obliged to synopsize, crystallize, and clarify the anquilli-form elusiveness of Maritia Wolff's latest novel. Begin one must, though with Paul Maitland, a man who has somehow. In some way, become intimately and inextricably a part of three entirely separate households, a rooster who has spread himself thin over several barnyards of chicken. He is provider, comforter in one roost -- father to daughter, companion and carpenter to mother in a second -- and sexual partner to a wife of a somewhat more than double ampul in the last. A bigamist with the moral overtones of the word remaining moot, he is the male complement to fragmented femininity. Paul Maitland is a thoroughly unique, unforgettable central character in a superb example of how this thing called novel writing should be done. A warning, however. The first reading of Buttonwood is somewhat like auditing a progressive jazz improvisation on an unfamiliar melody, with exposition withheld to the last. Only when the unembellished, organic tune is finally stated does one realize just how pertinent have been the sum of the parts. The melody in this case should linger on, and on, and on.

Publisher: Random House