THE NIGHT OF TREES by Thomas Williams


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Take violent symbolism, good hunting stories, sexual fantasies and sexual acts, a few frightening local characters and mix with New York suburban types, Jew vs. Gentile (a faint suggestion), and, of course, divorce and death -- this should add up to a commercial hit. Add a subtle implication that this is the chronicle of the collapse of a successful man's world and you hit the upper areas of discernment. This novel misses by trying to level with too many minds. The story rolls with Richard Grimald musing at the wheel on his way to a mountain retreat to meet his son. He loves his wife, Rachel, but her analyst has suggested that he is ""too strong a personality"" for her. Divorce is prescribed. The son, Murray, has quit school to join the army. Instead of looking at his problems, unsightly as they seem, our hero prefers to stalk about shooting up the wildlife around the mountain lodge and seducing the new and virginal wife of his host, Shim, who has some sanguinary and clandestine activities with slaughtered does. With all the butchery and cuckoldry we should be prepared for next incident: Mr. Grimald begs his son to stay another day -- he does and gets his in a hunting accident. Grimald goes home to tell lost wife of lost son, ends up collapsed in apartment house corridor. When the clearest image in retrospect is a grimacing porcupine, this reader concludes that The Night of Trees is a vague and unsatisfying as its title. A disappointment after the likable Town Burning (1959).

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1961
Publisher: Macmillan