TRANSPORTS AND DISGRACES by Robert Henson

TRANSPORTS AND DISGRACES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Henson specializes in longish tableaux-vivants, drama-less but authentic historical reconstructions whose great virtue is their high fidelity, one gestalt or another caught securely. Tone never slips: like most fictionists in this mode, Henson grafts and splints; unlike them, he never showily imposes. ""The Upper and Lower Millstone,"" an O. Henry Prize winner in 1978, tells of Rahab, a harlot of ancient Jericho, her relations with the chaste Joshua, and her later marriage to Solomon. Henson, by working the Biblical material down to the easily molded consistency of pure story, gets it to seem timeless. ""Lykaon""--a revision of the Helen of Troy legend as well as a subtle parody of the making of literary conventions--operates almost as well and satisfyingly. Unfortunately, the other three stories here, though they maintain the same sort of pure lines, do drag: John Dillinger's posthumous de-romanticization at the hands of his too-truthful-for-the-carny-circuit girlfriend; a diorama of benighted, barbaric Puritan Connecticut; and a look at Lizzie Borden's life-long revenge against her accusers. In such seemingly overlong tales, Henson takes lots of time setting up, then never gathers much of a peak. So: two winners, three almosts but all of them interesting--a pawky yet piquant collection.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press