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There are two moments, both early on, when poet Hazo's novel seems to be poised upon fruitful paths: when main character Dennis Holt, a young American working as a clown/aerialist in a Provence circus, considers the freedom of the clown to look carefully at the faces of his audience; and when a local professor talks about the inhumanity of romance. Neither motif, alas, is developed. And Haze instead concentrates on writing an illustration of the Isis myth--set, appropriately enough, in Eze in southern France. Dennis, casual about life, falls in love with intensely life-cherishing Denise de Savigny, daughter of a rich and influential industrial big shot. Their love is stymied by the father's ruthless machinations. And, climactically, Dennis is all but blinded after an attack by a de Savigny son . . . while Denise is set-up to have an abortion which she neither wants nor needs. True, Hazo's poetic dauntlessness makes some mark here. But the uncamouflaged metaphors irritate--Dennis' motorcycle is called Anubis--and these mythological connections are repeatedly emphasized by comments from the erudite characters. The dialogue is stiff and conventional: ""What I'm driving at, sir, is that I love Denise enough to walk out of this house and not make her life miserable. And that's more than you can do."" The observations are often trite: ""While he watched her undress, he could not help thinking that she reminded him of someone preparing for a sacred ablution or sacrifice."" And the result is a pretentious, academic exercise--only for those for whom the updated-mythology framework will be a major source of pleasure in itself.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1982
Publisher: North Point