MOSAIC MAN by Ronald Sukenick


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An implausibly likable rant, thinly disguised as fiction, by cyberpunk novelist Sukenick (Doggy Bag, 1994, etc.). Had Henry Miller been a nice Jewish boy, he might have left us something along the lines of Sukenick’s latest—a sort of portmanteau omnibus of theory, memoir, history, fiction, daydream, acid trip, and nightmare. Narrated by “Ron,” it moves between 1940s Brooklyn (with the war in Europe rapidly coming to a close) and France in the near future (under a government controlled by the National Front). As a boy growing up in Coney Island, Ron found himself astonished by the stories of Nazi death camps; now, he takes part (along with Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis) in a bombing raid on Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Paris. There are recollections of Ron’s first trips to Europe in the 1950s, when he hung out with the Paris Review crowd on the Left Bank, got drunk with the children of Nazis in Heidelberg dueling clubs, and (later) hobnobbed with Solidarity protesters in Poland. But neither Ron nor his story moves in a straight line, and there are frequent digressions on, for example, the meaning of Deuteronomy, the patterns of history, the differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, and the discovery of the Golden Calf worshiped by the ancient Israelites. What is history, after all, but our telling of it? “There are Jews today who worship the Golden Calf, Ron knows. But they know they shouldn—t. Just as Ron knows he shouldn—t be writing novels.” But, of course, he isn—t: Ron is just thinking out loud, imagining what it would be like if Simone Weil were still alive in Paris or Elvis Presley were Jewish. If it’s a story you want, well, there are places you could go. But basically Ron’s advice is: “Stop bitching . . . Jews have more fun.” Insane, pointless, incoherent, and fascinating: Sukenick has created an idea game that is just lighthearted enough to be fun, and just monomaniacal enough to be compelling.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-57366-079-5
Page count: 260pp
Publisher: FC2/Northwestern Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999


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