THE FIRST BOOK OF TIMOTHY by Robert Eaton Kelley


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A first novel that treats us to the endless musings of a verbose college boy on what turns out to be one of the oddest road trips since St. Paul set out for Damascus. During the Cuban missile crisis in October 1961, Timothy King decides to drop out of Dartmouth and head for New York. Quite apart from the international crisis that overshadows him and everyone else, Timothy is haunted by his own, more private, demons. Somehow, someone--none of it is made terribly clear--has given him what was meant to be a posthumous letter from his father (a prominent New England Democrat now attempting to enter national politics on the coattails of JFK), in which he confesses that he belonged to a secret Communist cell at Dartmouth in the 1930s and subsequently worked in the Communist underground. These new revelations seem to have radicalized Timothy overnight, and most of his thoughts now revolve obsessively around Communism, nuclear war, and Joseph McCarthy. Yet, oddly enough, Timothy doesn't appear in any rush to confront his father with what he knows, even after he meets a woman on the bus to New York who turns out to have been his father's mistress and claims to be Timothy's true mother. A possibly incestuous affair between the two ensues. Throughout all of this, the young man maintains the deadpan stance of a bedeviled intellectual who finds himself so deeply mired in complexity that he's beyond any surprise, a situation providing little in the way of a comprehensible narrative or plot. The abrupt ending also sheds no light into the murk, and leaves Timothy's future even more in doubt than it was. A sadly pointless exercise in convolution: In a tale self-reflective to the point of opacity, little plot manages to slip through.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of New England