THE LIMITS OF VISION by Robert Irwin

THE LIMITS OF VISION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here's a bit of literary madness likely to drive many readers into a similar state of frenzy, Irwin's fictional memoir of an obsessive/compulsive housewife plays with the idea that her neurosis might be an indication of visionary insight. Can she really see eternity in a speck of dust? Or is she just unhappy in her squeaky-clean marriage? Bored Marcia dreams of total whiteness; this diary of a day in her life reads like a nightmare vision of a consumerist fantasy. Dirt in all its forms--grunge, stains, sludge, soot, grease, rot, etc.--comes alive and engages her in armed and intellectual combat. This war of worlds finds her constantly scrubbing floors, Vacuuming the carpet, washing the dishes, but Mucor, ""the Spirit of Uncleanliness,"" and his minions reveal to her the hopelessness of her quest. Meanwhile, she glimpses the mite's random search for decay, the inner world of the living-room rug, her body's power to generate filth--in short, ""the whole grimoire."" This existential struggle with slime--she asks at one point, ""Why am I not a Brillo pad?""--transcends time and place. Marcia enlists Leonardo da Vinci, William Blake, Charles Darwin and others in her pursuit of an ontology of rubbish, a spic'n'span aesthetics, and a philosophy of fungus. But dialogues with the great and grimy can't make up for the fact that ""three thousand years of art and science"" haven't improved ""the lot of the common housewife."" The ordinary world breaks through Marcia's imaginary one in fragments--by the end of the novel, it's not at all clear whether she's won the battle and joined hands with like-minded seekers of a stainless horizon, or whether she's plunged into total psychosis. Despite its slimness, Irwin's self-consciously weird novel seems to go on forever. Like a lot of shaggy British humor, it's just one joke, taken beyond the fringe.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 1873982100
Publisher: Viking