98.6 by Ronald Sukenick


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Like patting his head, rubbing his stomach and whistling simultaneously--Ronald Sukenick writes fiction that is revolutionary, funny and significant. He gets more mileage out of the experimental novel than just about anyone--98.6 may go slowly but it will go far. It's a sort of acid-age quest for the Holy Grail--here referred to as the Ancient Caja--told in three parts. The introduction is a nerve-wracking pastiche of drugs, blood-drinking, human sacrifice, sadomasochism and general Satanism, Manson-style. The theme is the rottenness in the state of Frankenstein, the ""monsterspawn"" children of which set up one of those back-to-Earth communes. We thought this well of hip inspiration had gone dry long ago, but Sukenick develops a terse and sometimes lyrical knowing satire out of those cliches of '60's ""lifestyle."" The orgiastic menage--which is meanwhile set upon by bikers, Jesus people, druggies, rednecks--swiftly declines into a group-grope menagerie and splits up after an abortion. ""Palestine"" as the metaphor for Civilization pulls out all the linguistic stops on the way to Ron's ambitious ""plot to destroy the English language"" with more nonsense/wisdom, solecisms, doubletalk and orthographic conundrums per page than angels on the head of a pin. Sukenick concludes ""the novel is bungled fragments stitched together. . . . Another failure."" Another of his pointed jokes about the whirlpool of corruption that's dragging us all down and under? Must be. As such it's a success.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1975
Publisher: Fiction Collective--dist. by Braziller