IDENTITY AND DIFFERENCE by Peter Weltner

IDENTITY AND DIFFERENCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Weltner's first novel, which juxtaposes two narratives, each a portrait of a man attracted to another man, plays in interesting fashion with the idea of doubles, but is ultimately both overwritten and melodramatic. Darryl's brother Glenn commits suicide, and in the course of this story Darryl begins to take on the characteristics of his brother. After the funeral and various domestic travails, he moves into the apartment where Glenn lived when he killed himself; he begins to wear all of Glenn's clothes; and he even takes up with a woman Glenn was involved with (""I try to think where Glenn would go on a night like this and what he would do. . .""). Finally, he lets us understand that Glenn was gay--and that Glenn's death has brought him to a state of mind where he can admit how much he loved his brother and wanted to possess him--in a tale that's ominous in places, atmospheric, but also melodramatic at key moments. The other story, concerning Preston (""A sad mind, Preston's, an anxious mind""), is about a precious inanity who is attracted to Jim Bennett, whose southernness is so camp and exaggerated that it rings false. As for Preston, he's Bennett's perfect match: ""And what are these fantasies, after all? No more than spiritual manifestations of his usual wizardry, an abracadabra of hope and wish, desire's forbidden and dangerous name forward and backward anagrammatized into sensible speed."" Empty verbosity like this is unredeeming, especially when rendeled in a tone that's mostly uncritical and unironical. The occasional satirical stretches are too inconsistent to save the story. In short, Weltner's attempt to stitch together two narratives becomes just aesthetically pretentious, mining the one story that, given its own uncluttered terrain, might have made something of itself.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1990
Publisher: Crossing