ALIBI by Robert Kroetsch


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Perhaps the news that whimsical/pretentious soul-journeys are no longer in literary fashion has yet to reach Canada: this breezily obscure improvisation, like Kroetsch's feckless 1960s novels (But We Are Exiles, The Words of My Roaring), offers a modicum of loosely inventive charm, a great deal of arch/ponderous verbiage, and a murkily metaphorical concept. The narrator here is 46-year-old William William Dorfen, a.k.a. ""Dorf,"" who works as a buyer for Calgary's enigmatic tycoon-recluse Jack Deemer, an obsessive collector of everything. Dorf's new assignment: ""Find me a spa."" So Doff, with new love Karen (a documentary-filmmaker), first visits a spa in Banff, where he has underwater sex-at-first-sight with mystery-woman Julie. . . who then says: ""Find that spa for Jack Deemer, and I'll kill you."" Who is Julie? What's her motive (or Deemer's) in this spa quest? Those are among the wearisome, symbolic questions--as Doff survives an avalanche (a murder-attempt by Julie), flies to England, has super-sex with Karen, meets his older sister (cosmic coincidence), visits British spas, then heads for Europe: at a Portuguese spa, he finally beds Julie again, enjoying a sexual threesome with her and dwarf-doctor Manuel de Medeiros (""we the attendant rut, doubled and one, the drowning of our voices into the long and meditated cry, the delicious scream of her outraged pleasure""); in the Aegean he has a sexual encounter/epiphany with an octopus; at a Greek mud-spa, he revels in group-gropes, achieving the ultimate orgasm. And finally, after being briefly implicated in the violent Portugal death of Julie, Dorf winds up at a barren Canadian spa called Deadman Spring--where he becomes a healer (""I am another man, cured of past follies""), waits for the arrival of the Godot-like Deemer, and is pursued by all of the novel's shady characters. Coarse or cutely puerile in its sex-comedy, limp in its offhand pseudo-profundities: a fey, virtually plotless exercise, with only occasional bits (amusing asides, faintly absurdist fancies) to enliven the giddy-yet-portentous proceedings.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 1983
Publisher: Beaufort