ROBERT CREWS by Thomas Berger

ROBERT CREWS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Berger continues his postmodern traversal of the Harvard Classics (Orrie's Story, 1990) with a blow-by-blow American remake of Robinson Crusoe. Like Defoe's hero, Robert Crews has never amounted to anything- -having squandered his inheritance in an alcoholic haze while never working a day, pausing only long enough for three marriages--until he gets his chance at redemption when a plane carrying him and three companions (two virtual strangers and Dick Spurgeon, one of his oldest friends, whom he doesn't like any better) on a fishing expedition goes down in a storm that leaves him the sole survivor. Crews's initial adventures--salvaging meager survival gear from the wreck, making fire to scare away an inquisitive bear, fashioning primitive shelter and transport--are entertaining but pointless, apart from the self-evident moral that ``destroying oneself had a point only under conditions of civilization.'' Crews's wry flashbacks to his women and his hollow friendship with Spurgeon aren't propped up by a worldview as interesting as Defoe's providential imperialism (echoed without resonance in Crews's insistence that ``I've got a charmed life''), and peerless ironist Berger seems to deny irony to himself as well as his hero. The story picks up when Crews meets his Friday--a woman on the run from the man who shot her--but it's not until the final chapter showing his edgy, abrupt re-acculturation that Berger comes to fuller terms with what Crews's adventures have made of him. A shaggy-man story with an ambiguous denouement that, in retrospect, turns the rest of the tale into one long set-up line.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1994
ISBN: 0-688-11920-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1993




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