WILD ANIMALS by Peter Straub


Email this review


Three early novels by the now-bestselling horror novelist--two reprints, Julia (1975) and If You Could See Me Now (1977), plus ""my secret book"": Under Venus, Straub's second novel, circa 1974, which was rejected by his publisher. One can certainly see why. As Straub himself says in an often-pretentious introduction, ""Under Venus drifts toward the gothic without quite knowing what to do about it."" Elliot Denmark, a celebrated modern composer, returns from Paris to his mid-western home-city with his wife. He finds himself, however, still under the dank spell of enigmatic Anita Kellerman, a professor's widow; their affair re-commences. Meanwhile, Elliot finds himself in the middle of a battle between his father and his father-in-law--who are on opposite sides of a city dispute over the real-estate development plans of tycoon Ronnie Upp. And before Elliot is freed of his obsession, he'll have to learn assorted ugly secrets involving Anita, the Upp family, and others--with homosexuality, lesbianism, and adulterous parentage among the predictable revelations. Unfocused and sluggish as melodrama, the novel is even weaker as a psychosexual/mystical weaving of themes--despite symbols and dreams in the Iris Murdoch manner; Straub's characters are stubbornly blank-faced and artificial--a flaw which has become less and less important as his fiction has become more and more devoted to freeform commercial creepiness. The sex/psychic stew Julia remains ""derivative, incoherent, and ostentatious"" (Kirkus, 1975); If You Could See Me Now is still ""rushed and muddy"" (Kirkus, 1977), for demonic-possession buffs only. In fact, if anything, this omnibus serves as a reminder that, despite much hype, Straub has produced only one genuinely readable chiller, Ghost Story, and one runner-up (Floating Dragon)--unlike colleague Stephen King, with whom Straub has collaborated on the forthcoming The Talisman.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1984
Publisher: Putnam