TORNADO PRATT by Paul Ableman

TORNADO PRATT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A rambunctious fictionalized autobiography (originally published in 1977 in England) about the life of a 20th-century American tycoon. Episodic and lively, the novel has a great deal of fun with its subject but finally turns a grotesque figure into a touching (if not quite poignant) version of Falstaff--instinct- driven, hypocritical, but life-affirming. Tornado Pratt lives up to his first name. Pratt, purportedly telling his life history to Horace (who, we learn later, is an illegitimate son), is dying in a hotel as he remembers his life, sometimes chronologically, sometimes helter-skelter, in a brash, cocky voice that has enough range to entertain the big questions from time to time. Pratt, born in Kansas, leaves home at 16 to find his fortune, first in the Marines, then in Chicago, where he soon has the second-largest meat-packing operation in the city (``Don't ask me how I did it, Horace, because I can't tell you. All I know is I never put a foot wrong''). The rest of the story displays Pratt's consuming zest for life through good times and bad. Pratt lives through his share of lust and violence in Chicago, including an odd encounter with a ``perverted little gunman'' who thinks he's gay; travels to Europe and to England; and marries Nathalie, a peer's daughter. He calls her his great love and bemoans her horrifying death from cancer, but Ableman deftly allows the narrative to unpeel Pratt's voracious infidelity and dramatize his nature--an authentic hunger that takes him piecemeal and slapdash through the world he wants to grasp and understand. Britisher Ableman creates a plausible, complex representative of America. If he lacks Bellow's grasp of the grit of American character, he makes up for it by giving Pratt an appetite as large as Bellow's Henderson. Fine entertainment.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-929701-25-9
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1992