IT'S A WISE CHILD by Thomas Curley


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This is a first novel, another in Putnam's New Authors Guild series. It's a Wise Child is, unmistakably, a strong story, determinedly masculine (an attitude which the author seems to interpret as being unrelenting explicitness about the various ramifications of sex), written half in a kind of sardonic irony and half in a querying plaintiveness. The final result of this ambiguous moral stance is only a certain undergraduate cynicism. Robert Loomis, a bastard, and would-be composer, returns to his birthplace, Carthage, (supposedly Cincinnati) in search of his origins and himself. He's engaged to a decent if ordinary young woman, daughter of a Carthage minister, but he becomes involved again with Rita, his former mistress, a showgirl turned poet, who is now married to wealthy Willie Halpin. Out of desperate jealousy, Halpin would have Loomis believe that he's the illegitimate child of Henry Theodore, his fiancee's father. But after a puzzle-like detective chase which culminates in Halpin's murder it turns out that Loomis and Halpin are half-brothers. Loomis is now able to marry Rita, the woman who always meant the most to him, but he rejects her on the surface, because she had an abortion when she was living with him and can't have children. Loomis' explanation of his action is that he's ""not going to use his talents to escape the usual responsibilities of man"". But basically he's selfish, a moral coward, and for all his bravado, conventional in the worst possible way: his decision in favor of Miss Theodore and respectability involves an acceptance of attitudes he fails to live by and which, heretofore, he has been so good at flaunting. Finally though, it's Curley's own attitude towards his characters which serves to dispose of them. One gets the impression that the author knows too much (although he exhibits his knowledge in an unforgivably sophomoric way) to take these Carthage people very seriously.

Publisher: Putnam-New Authors Guild