CAVERNS by O.U. Levon


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Levon (novel spelled backward, how clever) is the pseudonym for 13 novice authors plus Ken Kesey, whose U. of Oregon writing class spawned this mutant tale about an archeological quest in 1930's Utah. The skeleton of the plot: Charles Oswald Loach is released from prison, where he's served heavy time for killing the man who threatened to reveal the location of Loach's claim to fame--""The Secret Cave of American Ancients."" Accompanied by two Theosophists, two newspaper men, a pretty archaeologist, Loach's niece, and his Walter Brennan-ish sidekick, Loach sets off to prove the existence of the cave and its fabulous, archaeologically eclectic wall paintings. Travelling by armored car, the band motors to Moab, Utah, where they pick up Loach's brother, and then to Salt Lake City, where they're joined by the novel's villain--a Mormon who believes the cave a threat to his white-supremacist views. At the cave, one person dies, and the cave paintings are revealed as only a leftover from FDR's public-works program. Meanwhile, the flesh on the skeleton: rather like Frankenstein's--a clumsily sewn tangle of fetid bits here, sallow parts there, sparked into a semblance of life by overarching mystical mumbo-jumbo (""My own theory,"" says Loach, ""is that ancient masters. . .left those symbols for us so that we might unlock the doors of our own mind and fulfill our spiritual destiny. . .""). With its vital fluid a sluggish stream of self-conscious dialogue (""'Macrocosm!"" Mona insisted shrilly. 'Microcosm!' Ramona maintained. 'Marconi,' was the parrot's considered opinion"") and stilted prose on which the overripe characters bob erratically from one nonclimax (a s‚ance, a sumptuous dinner on the range, a visit to the Mormon Temple) to another, this ""novel,"" neither proper satire nor thriller, is not only sloppy and silly--it's mind-numbingly dull. According to Kesey's jolly intro, the chapters were written by the class in 30-minute spurts, then tape-recorded and later edited. You'd never know it; you'd think 35 minutes per chapter, at least.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1989
Publisher: Penguin