A SLIGHT PAUSE by Robert Chibka


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A self-conscious first novel, burdened with labored zaniness, that nevertheless showcases Chibka's linguistic derring-do. The novel opens with promise as Chibka's hero, Laurence Paprika, explains how he came into the world via an abortive abortion: his umbilical cord was not cut because his mother, after falling in love with him at first sight, wanted to make up for his premature birth--so he spent his first months still connected to her, as if by a leash. Eventually, his marriage is strained when his wife thinks he's lying about his birth. They separate, Laurence takes off for N.Y.C., more or less seeking confirmation and his estranged grandfather Theo. But once Laurence himself stops narrating, the artificially elevated prose continues for hundreds of pages with no vivifying personality behind it. As seems to be de rigueur in contemporary experimental fiction, Chibka enlists the aid of the vocabularies of philosophy and science to explain away coincidence and imply deeper meanings--in a silly plot involving various overlapping relationships and lots of travel by bus and subway. Still, Chibka's neo-Joycean wordplay is often marvelous as he renders the speech of elderly Jewish men in the Bronx, including Grandpa Theo: ""Red Eyelid? Ewer mare rid fit migrained sin?"" (Rhode Island? You're married with my grandson?). Unfortunately, though, most readers will be so exhausted plodding through the bulk of the book that they won't have the energy to decipher Theo's dialogue. A mostly tedious excursion with a writer of obvious talent.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1989
Publisher: Norton