THE DRY DANUBE

A HITLER FORGERY

The protean West's 18th novel (and second to appear this spring, following his revisionist Old West tale OK, p. 267) forms an interesting complement to his earlier fictional study of the Nazi phenomenon and its mentality, The Very Rich Hours of Count von Stauffenberg (1980). Here, a `memoir` (the `author` of which is only gradually, glancingly revealed—as West's odd Afterword explains) describes the years (1907–14) when the young Adolf Hitler lived in Vienna as a hopeful art student. The specific subject is the importunate Adolf's courting of two older, established painters, Treischnitt and Kolberhoff, whose dismissive contempt for his productions (such as his `dry,` lifeless image of the Danube River) contributes significantly to the building resentment and that will later explode into military conquest and carnage. It's arguably reductive to thus pinpoint the source of Hitler's all-out assault on a European civilization that rejected his jejune contributions to it—but West's taut little immorality tale crackles with verbal energy, flexibility, and passion. One of his most fully realized fictions.

Pub Date: April 25, 2000

ISBN: 0-8112-1432-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More rich, satisfying food for thought from one of America’s most imaginative and accomplished novelists.

FOUR FREEDOMS

The American home front during World War II serves as metaphor for a fallen world seeking renewal in the latest from Crowley (Lord Byron’s Novel, 2005, etc.).

The action takes place in an aircraft factory in formerly oil-rich Ponca City, Okla.—and in the memories of several brilliantly realized characters. These include Dutch-American siblings Henry and Julius Van Damme, whose company has been entrusted with mass-producing America’s largest warplane; disabled plant worker Prosper Olander, whose roots lie in an unidentified northern city and a confused family history; several splendid women with whom Prosper forges close relationships; and idealistic Pancho Notzing, a self-styled philosopher who preaches a relativistic gospel embracing imperfection and diversity. In a tricky narrative that weaves in and out of the novel’s present (1942–5) and lavishly detailed flashbacks to the characters’ earlier lives, Crowley creates a fascinating microcosm: an insular, though globally inspired and involved alternative world that’s as radical an invention as the bifurcated world of his classic fantasy Little, Big (1984). The theme of an embattled idyllic America suddenly vulnerable to threats to the “four freedoms”(of speech and worship, from want and fear) enumerated in FDR’s third State of the Union address, is spelled out in the stories of Prosper’s sufferings growing up with a curved spine; his first lover Vi Harbison’s exuberant experiences as a softball pitcher; her successor Connie Wrobleski’s unhappy marriage and sexual renewal; and, just before a climactic occurrence wipes Ponca City’s slate clean, the intellectual road taken by Pancho en route to a fructifying vision of a “Harmonious City” that incarnates the ideal of full equality for all. Crowley further enriches his text with complex allusions to classical mythology and Shakespearean drama; Prosper evokes both The Tempest’s hero-sage and the wounded Fisher King whose sacrifice redeems a stricken Waste Land.

More rich, satisfying food for thought from one of America’s most imaginative and accomplished novelists.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-123150-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

NO DARK PLACE

No Dark Place ($22.00; Jun. 3; 294 pp.; 0-06-019238-0): Most medieval mysteries dip into the past, but it’s quite a fast-forward from Wolf’s sojourn in prehistoric romance (The Reindeer Hunters, 1994, etc.) to the comparatively recent 12th century, when Hugh Corbaille learns that the father he just lost may not be his father after all; Hugh may be the kidnapped heir, and the only witness to the long-ago murder, of the Earl of Wiltshire.

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-019238-0

Page Count: 294

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more