ECLIPSE FEVER by Walter Abish


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 Preston Hollier, a wealthy American developer, has traduced two young rising-star Mexican intellectuals into doing his bidding under the guise of undertaking restoration and conservation of the Mayan pyramids and antiquities. Hollier means to loot everything, of course (``Ownership in Mexico is a frame of mind''), and has a network that includes a rotten American pre-Columbian art dealer; his wayward wife, Rita; various museum administrators and high government officials. The relative ease with which clerks bow to power is a theme here. But what comes over more strongly, annoyingly for the reader, is the postmodernist (and passÇ-seeming) stylistics. Abish--no surprise from the author of How German Is It (1980)--loves question-sentences so much that he constructs whole paragraphs made of them). There are fractured narrative, hard-bitten dialogue, banal and barren landscapes (``The corroded gas pumps in front had not seen service in years, despite the misleading sign: CHEVRON--SERVICE WITH A SMILE. Above the entrance, the sign in red, its first two letters missing, announced RAGE''), the high-culture milieux of restaurants and galleries. The atmospheric chill is glacial, stiffly enforced (at the cost of a reader's wondering why certain characters, such as a reclusive American novelist and his teenaged daughter, are even in the book in the first place). Everyone's a shard, a fragment of the generalized paranoia--but in the crazing, Abish shatters his novel as well, and you read uninvolved, from too far back, undisturbed (except, easily, by scenes of cruelty). Working with a basic Manichaean palette used before (and better) by William Gaddis, Robert Stone, and Evan Connell, Abish seems to struggle throughout to pull together what he aesthetically prefers to keep separate--and the strain shows. Intelligent but inert.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41867-9
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993


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