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 Two gorillas abduct a beautiful maiden from her Manhattan apartment; her fiancÇ, a celebrity wrestler, seeks her recovery. His quest is the framework of the most ambitious novel yet from Dobyns (After Shocks/Near Escapes, etc.)--a kind of philosophical joyride that frequently invokes Nietzsche as it investigates such matters as dualism and causality. Michael Marmaduke is a humble Jersey bodybuilder until wrestling trainer Primus Muldoon transforms the gentle blond giant into Marduk the Magnificent. Michael's gentleness becomes his Gimmick; Primus excels at transforming Nietzsche's ``bungled and botched'' into extravagant heroes and villains, at manipulating images to satisfy a mass-market culture. Rose White's kidnapping, arranged by her malevolent twin Violet, forces Michael out of his cocoon of scripted dualism. Now he must initiate action; now he must think; now the pussycat must become a tiger (exactly what Violet wants). Guided and misguided by Jack Molay, a mysterious old pedant, and by Deep Rat, Violet's sinister emissary, Michael confronts a bewildering variety of physical and intellectual challenges: fights with hybrid men/beasts, rap sessions with the Disputants, street gangs whose beliefs are grounded in early Christian heresies. But this is far from being Michael's story exclusively. Beginning with a wrestling bout at the Garden (the non-Edenic variety), omniscient narrator Dobyns plunges into the Manhattan anthill with the same furious energy that Dos Passos brought to Manhattan Transfer, summoning up a slew of minor characters, many of whom are transfixed by the image of Marduk, and all of whom are at the mercy of chance. There's a fine smoke-and- mirrors climax in which Michael defeats the Pseudo-Marduk and arrives at a place far, far beyond good and evil. There are sluggish passages here, notably those involving the hairsplitting Disputants, but only a churl would linger over defects in a work that is so stunningly imaginative, so liberating in its sense of possibilities in life and art, and so much fun.

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03511-5
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993


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