SMOKE STREET by Mark Smith


Email this review


Smith (The Delphinium Girl, The Death of the Detective) has gradually, somewhat casually, cast off all the raiments of the realist novel; he trades now instead, frankly and without concern, in a spare, allegorical style--which becomes uncomfortably thin and obvious here. An American merchant ship called The Evergreen is docked off the coast of a Central American country in revolt; one of its sailors, McQuade, disembarks (against better sense) to search for his Midwestern sweetheart Sally Sunstrum--who's been a teacher in the countryside of this small, volatile nation. McQuade finds both help and hindrance at the American Embassy--and at Ramirez & Koppleman, Seafarers, Limited: it's a shadowy business office staffed not by the above-mentioned Ramirez & Koppleman but by two gents named de Grott and Pendleton--who provide leads and advice that are often blind alleys. Also appearing, from beyond the grave and with some frequency, are McQuade's parents. What is all this? Well, it finally seems to be a Blaise-Cendrars-like fantasia, bound only by the universal glue of lazy surrealism: ""For what was then is now, and what was there is here. What was lived was dreamed. And all vice versa. All times are one time, and always have been, and, at the same time, have been no time at all. A revolving door opens out onto all the rooms, and through it, all the times are free to come and go. You see, there was only an illusion of time passing in the many scenes and episodes that came before. The only time that truly passed was the time you took to dream it up."" In sum: a spare, didactic cartoon from literary academia--more an artsy exercise than seriously involving fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow