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A confused conceptual novel set in guess what continent? The shtick is working through the alphabet from beginning to end, then back again, in 52 infinitesimal chapters; the trick is to use only words beginning with the letter of that chapter or ones previous (in the first, words commencing with A; in the second, words beginning with either A or B. Etc.) The adventures cryptically concern a nymph named Alva and her loves: Alex and Allen (whom she and Queen Quat entice into murder and theft), Alfred (who watches helplessly as she makes passionate love to the French Consul's wife in Tanzania), and finally the author, who pursues her all over the continent both for lust and to find an ending for his novel. Amidst endless self-conscious word-play and the intrusion of the author (circa late '60's literary avant-garde) there is some humor: ant armies who eat through cities at the rate of 40 feet per hour, a gradually shrinking Africa that functionally disappears as the alphabet draws to its circular close, jokes about African ""click"" languages, tom-tom beating, etc. An extended gag, quite a bit less profound than it takes itself to be -- and please, where is the ""hip"" novel that does not have its female protagonist opening her legs to anyone, any time, anywhere?

Pub Date: April 19th, 1974
ISBN: 0811205339
Publisher: New Directions