A BLISS CASE by Michael Aaron Rockland


Email this review


A comic first novel about the transformation of a college professor into a guru. Written in the short-clipped passages of a newspaper columnist, Rockland's debut satirizes the Rajneesh group, the mid-life crisis, and the human-potential movement. Sidney Kantor, a Rutgers English professor, ""had missed the sixties getting tenure and he was making up for it."" In fact, Kantor's metamorphosis from staid academic to charismatic hippie to Swami Anudaba (follower of Babadahs) almost dates the book, but Rockland has a great deal of fun telling a once-familiar story from several points of view. Kantor's Jewish mother is befuddled: ""Maybe we were too liberal with Sidney."" A guest, she gets the grand tour: Sufi dancing, dynamic meditation, rebirthing in the nude. Kantor's former academic colleague, George Phelps Smith, is a little jealous. He chronicles how Sidney ""went orange"": conferences with students on Life, a separation from his wife, therapy groups, a pilgrimage to India. Kantor's estranged wife Elaine experiences a marriage that ""was always going to be"" before Sidney announces ""I don't want to write about Walt Whitman. I want to be Walt Whitman."" With such statements, Sidney justifies his promiscuity and adultery, and Sidney's daughter, a convert, then describes life in Oregon (Zen Road, Enlightenment Day, ""Everybody is everybody's lover here"") before the assassination of the Rajneesh and tim deification of Sidney as the new Master or Babadah. His mother has the last word in ""Sidney Finds a Trade"": ""As long as you're happy."" Sidney is rather too much (and implausibly) admired by the various voices, but this patchwork farcical portrait, despite some repetition, is a pleasant entertainment with a little bite to it.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Coffee House