THE BOOK OF THE NIGHT by Rhoda Lerman

THE BOOK OF THE NIGHT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

it is about a cow who jumped over the moon that I write and night and nicht and nacht and Naught and not and net and enough and Enoch and eunuch and unicorn."" This dense and fussily decorative allegory, set in a tenth-century monastery island (occasionally invaded by 20th-century artifacts and a ship of foolish tourists), is only sporadically stimulating--as it tangles with word-play, melds of mythological, religious/sexual states and transmogrifications, and eerie landscapes, focusing on a search for a meaning ""outside symmetry."" Pre-pubescent Celeste learns the lesson of duality, watching her father at his loom weaving a tapestry of the world ""as a butcher's feast"": the uncontained and the container; the stabled and the stable. Then transformed into the boy CuRoi, the former Celeste learns from a monk chronicler (who records facts without meaning or connections) the nature of a ""safe and given world."" But for a woman sex means both exaltation and rejection--by her father, by the hero washed from the sea, the new Abbot Thomas. And, in the female-abhorring schema of the religious community, there is only one way to stay: ""On August 15th I became a cow. . . reeking with sexuality."" Stabled, this cow-creature now seeks out Seth, god of the dead, searching for womanhood again--and ""an inner space of air and dust and cold and waste and shit and soul."" Next, from a goddess with cow ears (in a group of 20th-century tourists), the cow receives ""the measure of the world,"" which she will lose, intending to reshape not the world but the self. There will be fanciful dark journeys to crofters' villages and the Dark Gods; a ferrying of dead kings to be ground into pottery; a murky clash of arms in religious wars. And, at the close, Seth will advise: ""Take the future""--because the only way to a ""new note"" in evolution, from cow back to woman, is ""a new orchestration of everything in you from the most ancient archebacteria creeping in your bowels to the mind that reflects on itself."" An over-riddling allegory, steamy as a cow shed with unprocessed invention and quasi-feminist murk.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1984
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston