THE SONG OF PERCIVAL PEACOCK by Russell Edson

THE SONG OF PERCIVAL PEACOCK

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A bizarre first novel, almost entirely in dialogue, that scrambles ideas of family, control, gender, sexuality, and self-- all of it avant-garde in style, very traditional and English in setting--by poet and experimental writer Edson (the prose poem The Reason Why the Closet-Man Is Never Sad, 1977, etc.). Percival Peacock arrives at the ancestral home seeking his inheritance. A snob who confuses (and is equally disgusted by) the excretory and reproductive functions, he meets two servants who immediately overstep social boundaries. Through circular discussions, Percival attempts to locate a chair--his ``throne,'' which may also be his childhood potty-seat--connecting its disappearance perhaps with The Maid's habit of covering her naked body with mayonnaise or with its use as a sexual surrogate. Percival is reduced to childish dependence, subjected to discipline, locked into a chastity belt, and dressed as an old woman while The Maid and The Caretaker (who inherited all the money) treat him both as daughter and potential lover. Percival's attempts to claim his place in the world are further thwarted by the Peacock Dwarf (who may be the old man's natural son), two scheming, seductive sisters, and the Captain of Police. Everyone (including a pig) ends up in bridal gown. The comic dialogue ranges from the simplistically unnerving (`` `Shut up, how dare you yell at me?' yelled Mr. Peacock. `I'm not yelling at you, I'm yelling because I'm nervous,' yelled the Caretaker'') to low humor (Peacock becomes Hardcock, Praecox, etc.) to Percival's application of logic and elevated diction to chaos and illogic. Inspired silliness keeps the psychological allegory from weighing too heavily.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 1-56689-002-0
Page count: 125pp
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1992