THE HERMETIC WHORE by Peter Spielberg

THE HERMETIC WHORE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The particulars--some more particular than, others--of an ordered, ordinary life stake out the edges of Peter Spielberg's short fictions. Doing jury duty, mourning the death of skirts, owning a Volkswagen, arguing about women's-lib--none would be out of place in The New Yorker but for the fact that, in Spielberg's hands, such situations fly apart, his material displaces itself, and riot is just barely avoided. The Volkswagen turns out actually to be powered by a dog sealed into the engine block; a social worker (in the title story), attempting to improve the mental health of the elderly by advocating masturbation, sets off such a wave of self-abuse that the country's sexual stability is imperiled; children sue to divorce their parents and be allowed to take others. Grotesqueries are enriched by a sure and urbane literalness--Kafka's lesson well learned. But perhaps Spielberg is best when instead of being zany he implodes; the book's strongest piece is one that begins as a bantering account of suicide-on-the-brain and then turns into a moving analysis of Schadenfreude among German immigrant Jews in New York. In its own brief way, it's more convincing and to the point than Bellow's Sammler. Spielberg's powers of concentration prove out with elegance; what exactly he focuses them on seems to make the difference between home-grown second-hand surrealism and genuinely emotional exploration.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1977
Publisher: Fiction Collective-dist. by Braziller