GLYPH by Percival Everett

GLYPH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Grabbing academia where it hurts the most, by its swollen, unintelligible poststructuralist theories, the prolific Everett (Frenzy, 1997, etc.) uses a most unlikely foil: a genius baby who reads and writes but refuses to speak, striking fear into his parents and all those who kidnap him for their own nefarious ends. Baby Ralph, born with his formidable intellect ready for higher stimulation, is opposed to speech on aesthetic and philosophical grounds. Having no such scruples against writing, however, and feeling himself loved by his frustrated-artist mother, he begins composing notes to her (“ralph needs books in his crib ralph does not wish to rely on the moving lips for knowledge”), and once she gets over her shock, like a true mother she nurtures him. Meanwhile, his father—a pompous academic who fawns over Roland Barthes, bringing him home for supper—at first believes Ralph to be mildly retarded. But he’s in for trouble once he realizes that his son really is not only smarter than he is but able to blackmail him over an affair Daddy’s having with a graduate student. The shrink these parents find for Ralph can’t accept what he is either, but even so decides to kidnap him, hiding him away until she can use him to (she hopes) make her famous. From her mean-spirited, alcoholic clutches, he falls into the hands of a top-secret military intelligence group that wants him for a spy. But then Ralph is saved from his maximum-security prison cell by his guard, a quiet Latino who smuggles him home after Ralph writes that he misses his mother. Through all this, including a final free-for-all that involves his previous captors, the Catholic Church, and Ferdinand Marcos, the baby wonder is developing into a full-blown cynic who finds Lacan helpful for potty training and uses Aristotelian logic to deconstruct what’s real and what’s fiction. A smart, rollicking sendup, but to grasp it all requires patience and an insider’s knowledge of the deconstructionist game—making it a story not for everyone.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55597-296-9
Page count: 218pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999




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