Loads of Learned Lumber

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thomas Frank, "To the Precinct Station"

TO MY MIND, we may have other political analysts as sharp as Thomas Frank around, but we have none sharper, as illustrated by the Edmund Wilson allusion in the title of his piece in Baffler 21. I'm not wholly persuaded by his argument here, though--that the American left wasted the opportunities created by the Occupy movement of 2011.

"OWS has today pretty much fizzled out," he writes, while the impact of its "evil twin," the Tea Party movement is still unfolding:

"... under the urging of this trumped-up protest movement, the Republican Party proceeded to win a majority in the U. S. House of Representatives; in the state legislatures of the nation it took some six hundred seats from the Democrats; as of this writing it is still purging Republican senators and congressmen deemed insufficiently conservative and has even succeeded in having one of its own named as the GOP's vice-presidential candidate." (emphasis Frank's)

Frank blames the dramatically weaker impact of OWS on the talkiness of the American left, more precisely the tendency of its discourse to resemble that of professors talking to students, or of students writing for professors, or, worst of all, professors writing for professors. (He quotes some egregious examples.) He also blames the tendency of leftists to think of the Tea Partiers as an alien breed, beyond redemption, when they are really not that far apart (he finds some striking rhetorical parallels to show this).  These bad habits add up to an inability on the part of the left to communicate with the ordinary people who are, or once were, its natural constituency.

All of which, as Hamlet tells Polonius, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down--for Frank ought to acknowledge that already at its birth-moment (a rant about the victims of predatory lending having only themselves to blame, wasn't it?) the Tea Party movement's message of individual accountability, lower taxes, less regulation, and so on was primed for takeover and re-molding by the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and other deep-pocketed types who saw its potential as a political machine. 

As one can see in Jill Lepore's book, the Tea Partiers who actually showed up at the rallies, bought the tricorne hats, and got interviewed on the local news were going to be left behind in all of this. They were marginalized just as surely as the OWS stalwarts were marginalized.

I think Frank has a point about the left's clumsy rhetorical practice, but the Tea Party's electoral (as distinct from cultural) impact has less to do with its rhetorical savvy than with the funding it attracted, funding that OWS, for obvious reasons, was never going to attract.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paul Harding, _Tinkers_

WASN'T SURE ABOUT our book club selection for March--Pulitzer Prize winners have been a hit-or-miss bunch for me--but Tinkers could turn out to be a minor classic.

We meet George Crosby a few days from his death; he starts thinking about his father, Howard, who left the family abruptly when George was a boy, to resurface only once and very briefly when George was an adult with children of his own.

The narrative drifts back to the season of Howard's departure, which is a bit like stepping back into the 19th century. The family lives on the edge of the woods; Howard, who ekes out a living as a tinker, has epilepsy.  His illness is rendered mainly from his own point of view, Harding taking great trouble (successfully, I think) to represent the famous "aura" through lyrical, somewhat hallucinatory prose--the effect is a bit like Emerson or Thoreau on mushrooms. These experiences, one feels, are what give Howard reason to live, yet they also make him an unreliable provider and something of a hazard around the house. He leaves when he discovers that his wife is making plans to have him institutionalized.

We drift back further to Howard's own childhood, to his own slightly dotty/otherworldly father, to his first seizure, which is almost a kind of spiritual initiation as well. More American Renaissance echoes here, as Howard's first person voice takes on tinges of Whitman's: "O Senator, drop your trousers! [...] Cease your filibuster against the world God gave you."

George does not entirely disappear from the narrative, though.  We begin to sense he is a counterweight to Howard: grounded, pragmatic, responsible, as minutely attentive to the human-made (he repairs clocks) as Howard is to the divinely-made.

As with Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, I can easily imagine slotting this into an American literature survey.  Its depiction of the natural world, of religious sensibility, of making or failing to make a living, of disconnection between generations all seem rich with our American peculiarity.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rorty again: interim notes on Alain Badiou, _Metapolitics_

I'M ONLY AT midpoint (p. 77) with this, the first book by Badiou I've read, but while the topic is on my mind I want to point out another gratuitous smack at Richard Rorty, this one in Jason Barker's  "Translator's Introduction" to Badiou's book. Since the English version of Metapolitics appeared in 2005, when Rorty was still alive, Barker's smack seems less gratuitous than Samuel Moyn's (see LLL for February 13), but it still irritates.

Barker is writing about the poverty of contemporary political philosophy, which he compares to the "fraudulent behavior" of Kant, who professed admiration for the ideals of the revolution yet distaste for the policies of St. Just and Robespierre.  Rorty gets singled out for this kind of hypocrisy:

Today, the mere spectacle of democracy (and few are more skilled at waxing lyrical on the benefits of liberal democracy  than the contemporary armchair philosophers) lives on in the work of Richard Rorty, whose preference for "irony" over real politics is well documented [here Barker cites Rorty's Contingency, Irony, Solidarity].

Badiou himself does not mention Rorty (or any American thinker) in the book, so why is Rorty dragged in here? My guess is that he is disesteemed at Verso (publishers of the English version of Metapolitics) and neighboring precincts for such pronouncements as "Marxism was not only a catastrophe for all the countries in which Marxism took power, but a disaster for the reformist Left in all the countries in which they did not" (from Achieving Our Country--the whole second chapter of which argues along the same lines).

Well, perhaps Barker values Marx and Marxism, thus feels like taking a shot at a writer who was notoriously dismissive of Marx and Marxists... fair enough, yes?

So I thought until I got a ways into Badiou. Badiou say this about the term that furnishes the book's title:

By 'metapolitics' I mean whatever consequences a philosophy is capable of drawing both in and for itself, from real instances of politics as thought. Metapolitics is opposed to political philosophy, which claims that since no such politics exists, it falls to philosophers to think 'the' political.

That sounds powerful and liberating to me--but it also sounds a lot like Rorty. The first sentence of Contingency, Irony, Solidarity is, "About two hundred years ago, the idea that truth was made rather than found began to take hold of the imagination of Europe." He goes on to lay out how the idea that the truths are made, not found, has worked its way through European philosophy since the French Revolution.  Rorty is clearly in the "making" camp, as is, to judge from the distinction he makes between "metapolitics" and "political philosophy," Badiou himself.

Badiou is also, apparently, no longer a Marxist: "I believe, to put it quite bluntly, that Marxism doesn't exist" (58). His rejection of Marxism, admittedly, has more to do with his idea of "singularities," the idea that trying to put Marx, Lenin, and Mao under the same conceptual umbrella just gets things wrong, than it does with the cruelties and humiliations inflicted by Marxist states, as it does with Rorty (Badiou can be snarky about the idea of "human rights'). But still, he's done with it, just as Rorty is.

Badiou sums up his own Manifesto for Philosophy and its notion of "truth procedures": "In their particular way they produce truths. Thus, philosophy operates on the basis of multiple truths, and certainly does not generate them itself." Hell's bells, that doesn't just sound like Rorty, it sounds like Isaiah Berlin, a name I imagine not uttered with much reverence around Verso.

There's a longish piece in Metapolitics on Sylvain Lazarus, whose book, if I understand Badiou correctly, wants to create intellectual space for us to conceive of the possibility of revolution and be alert to unpredictable, unforeseeable ways revolution can emerge in our practices. In part, this involves not being cowed by history and experience--the guillotine, Stalin.  This is a good point; without a sense of possibility, without hope, we are fucked. But would our sorry species have made it even this far had we not developed the ability to say, "since we got sick after eating the berries  from that bush yesterday, let's not eat them today"? Here is where the French philosophers could use a little William James, maybe, a little John Dewey, maybe even a little Rorty.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mathias Svalina, _The Explosions_

IT'S NO SECRET that LLL has long had a hopeless crush on the poetry of Mathias Svalina--surreptitiously leaving flowers on its doorstep, regularly peeking into Yes, Starlings! Yes!, asking the other blogs if they know who Mathias Svalina's poetry really likes. With the publication of The Explosions, that crush has deepened and matured into the Real Thing...

...well, we've carried that conceit far enough, I think! All I really wanted to do is mention that I will be reviewing The Explosions in a different and altogether more respectable online forum and thus have pre-empted myself from writing much about it here.  So I will content myself with saying that I think Svalina's poetry is just getting stronger and stronger, and you all ought to pick up The Explosions. The short poems are excellent in the usual Svalinian ways, but the long poem "Above the Fold" (a section of which, "The Viral Lease," has already appeared in a chapbook and was discussed in LLL a while back) attempts something new and difficult, and pulls it off.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

David A. B. Murray, ed., _Homophobias: Lust and Loathing across Time and Space_

THIS IS EXACTLY the sort of thing I was hoping to find. Fone may be Eurocentric, but contributors to this volume write about Barbados, Indonesia, Jamaica, and India. Kantor may be under-theorized, but Murray and his contributors come on theory-rich:

Furthermore, what appears to be the same thing around the world--the persecution of mainly male homosexuals--may not in fact be due to the same factors and may not even be primarily about homosexuality but is rather a phenomenon produced through a complex nexus of gendered, classed, and raced inequalities which are in turn tied to long term local and transnational political and economic relations of inequality.

Right out of the gate, Murray's introduction (from which the above quotation is drawn) emphasizes that homophobia is "a socially produced form of discrimination located within relations of inequality," and not necessarily the same phenomenon as we turn from one culture to another, or, as Don Kulick puts it, the volume's authors discuss homophobia "without making the elementary error of taking the concept as an unproblematic, transcultural given."

Murray (like many) would even rather do without the term "homophobia," which is "inadequate both in analytical capacity and cross-cultural utility," but until we have a consensus on a replacement (= never, I daresay), it will have to do.

I had my favorite chapters here--Kulick, Constance Sullivan-Blum, Tom Boellstorff--but I can honestly say I got something out of every single chapter.  And how often can one honestly say that?  Not bad for a crew of anthropologists.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

You go, Ange Mlinko

LOTS OF SNORTING and spluttering in the letters column of The Nation this week over Ange Mlinko's somewhat chilly assessment of Adrienne Rich's standing with younger poets. Trivial errors aside (Mallarmé, not Valéry, okay, got it), I thought Mlinko was right when I read the piece (well worth a look--February 18 issue) and I still think so.

Rich's reputation had...has, we might as well say, much to do with the wise and courageous decisions she made in the positions she took, the commitments she made, and the causes she honored. The question before us is how that kind of wisdom and that kind of courage weigh with posterity, so far as poets are concerned. Insofar as Mlinko's answer is "not that much," history proves her right over and over again.

Which are you likelier to pick up next, Whitman's "Song of Myself" or Whittier's anti-slavery poems? (I'll except "Letter from a Missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church South," which I re-read every year.) Is the teacher of a poetry workshop going to have her students look at Dickinson, or at Barrett Browning's poems about child labor reform and the Risorgimento? Millay's poems on Sacco and Vanzetti, or Crane's White Buildings? And then there are all those poems on the Spanish Civil War or the war in Viet Nam, some of them (Louis MacNeice's and Allen Ginsberg's, for me) still moving, but....

Whittier, Barrett Browning, and Millay were wise and courageous, and their choice to speak to the urgencies of their hour commands respect. But the impact of that kind of poem diminishes over time; for all but a very, very few such poems, eventually it completely disappears.

The impact of Rich's poems is bound to recede, absent the authority of her presence. The thought may give pain, but that is simply what happens, no? Would anyone have written testily if Mlinko had said the same thing about Lowell? He too, like Rich, brought great talents to the urgencies of the hour, but absent the authority of his presence, how many young poets cite him as an influence today? Adam Kirsch, perhaps, if he still counts as young (and still counts as a poet). But I bet you will find a dozen who cite Spicer for every one who cites Lowell.  Who would have foreseen that in 1965?

If you are a poet, being right about and taking a stand on the defining issues of one's time simply doesn't cut much ice with posterity. Look at Pound. He was wrong in the worst possible way about every crucial political question of his time.  Wrong, wrong, wrong. Grotesquely wrong. And while few nowadays would say he was one of the 20th century's very greatest poets--or fewer than would have said so thirty or forty years ago, I imagine--his influence still percolates through American poetry, due not only to his own work but also the doors he opened for the next generations, Zukofsky, Oppen, Duncan, Rachel Blau DuPlessis....

Great having Katha Pollitt weigh in on Sheryl Sandberg, by the way.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hilary Mantel, _Bring Up the Bodies_

PAINS ME TO say this, but it's not nearly as good as Wolf Hall. There's a certain dumbing-down, most noticeable in the constant yet superfluous indication "he, Cromwell" in spots where in Wolf Hall Mantel trusted the reader to bear in mind that the fiction was from Cromwell's point of view.

The main problem, though, is that Cromwell is static in this second volume.  Wolf Hall gave us the resources, strategies, setbacks, and triumphs of the humbly born Cromwell rising to become the second most powerful man in England; it unforgettably depicted a figure who is peripheral in most histories of the period as the first Modern Man.

Bring Up the Bodies does not add much nuance to the portrait. He's a power at the beginning of the novel and a power at the end, having once again managed the feat of getting one Queen of England out the door and a new one crowned. His execution of this task is interesting to watch, but he's done it before, and his repeating it does not (yet) materially much affect his circumstances.

Similarly, he once again sets up some enemies for a fatal fall, but what happens to Brereton, Rochford, et al. hardly matches the catastrophe of Sir Thomas More (in Wolf Hall) for intellectual drama. Mantel does an interesting job of presenting how Cromwell might have read Anne Boleyn, but Cromwell himself is the real revelation in these novels, and in this second installment not that much more is revealed.

Not that I won't be getting the third installment the instant it appears. That one will be about Cromwell's fall--and the novelist who gave us the best extant fictional account of Robespierre knows how to do a fall.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Noah Eli Gordon, _The Source_

THIS HAD BEEN on my shelf for over a year before I took it up, and serendipitously enough at the very same time I had started reading Lawrence Wright's Going Clear, his new history of Scientology. Wright's chapter on L. Ron Hubbard life before founding Scientology is titled, coincidentally, "The Source," and Gordon's volume seems like one of the home-made, self-published scriptures that could have found its way into Hubbard's hands in the late 1940s, passed on by some hollow-eyed cultist in a bus station, perhaps, its card-stock cover textured to suggest leather, its title stamped in gold.

The Source looks so much like the handbook of some fly-by-night storefront aspiring religion that I almost felt embarrassed to be reading it in the public space of my favorite coffeehouse. Well done, Mickel Design.

Scientology, I gather from Wright, is a potent cocktail of familiar fringe belief-memes, not unlike the lethal home brew of whatever-is-at-hand that River Phoenix's character concocts in The Master; Gordon's volume is equally factitious, and wears its factitiousness on its sleeve.  His concluding "Note on Process" explains, "From January of 2008 to September of 2009, I read only page 26 of nearly ten thousand books at the Denver Public Library, culling from them bits of language, which I then fused together, altering some nouns to read 'the Source' so they became reflective of the parameters of the project." (Why 26?  He explains that, too.) This process yielded, for instance--

The difference in our perception is a furnished room quite a distance away, where the Source denotes a peculiar mode of performance, as though sending us out with money to buy a more presentable suit of clothes.

Sentences like that are what distinguish The Source from similar projects (e.g., Kenneth Goldsmith's) that are more interesting to think about than to read. Gordon balances the precise and imagistic with the vast and vaporous, setting the controls for the heart of the sun and then pulling you up short with a knife-edged epigram. Just when you are thinking the book is merely a jokey parody-by-protocol, you stumble on a sentence that sounds like the second coming of Lao Tzu.

In every desire to know there is a drop of the Source.

Gordon does not, as David Shields did in Reality Hunger, provide a list of sources, which I suppose means the legal department at Knopf is more exacting than that at Futurepoem...come to think of it, Futurepoem probably doesn't even have a legal department. I find myself curious, though, about the culling and fusing Gordon describes in his note. Unfortunately, Google searches of various phrases in The Source led me only to the publications where excerpts from it were first published. So, yes, seeking the sources of The Source but leads me back to The Source...the Source that can be sourced is not the Source, to echo the Tao Te Ching.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Alan Hollinghurst, _The Stranger's Child_

COULD THIS REALLY have been, as the back cover proclaims, a "#1 best seller" in England? What, we get Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey while in the U.K. novels as elegant, subtle, and powerful as this outsell, at least for a week or two, every other rival? Are they really that much smarter than us?

Hollinghurst's first novel, The Swimming-Pool Library, was a masterpiece, and the three that followed were never less than excellent; this latest one at least equals the first.  Like The Swimming-Pool Library, it incorporates history (and again, it's an occluded, fragmentary history) without sacrificing nuanced novelistic attention to physical detail or psychological acuity.

The first of five sections is set in 1913 (perhaps 1914, but before war was declared), and presents a weekend visit by Cecil Vallance, a Rupert Brooke-like dazzling undergraduate poet, to the home of his friend and lover George Sawle; George's sister Daphne falls hard for Cecil, and he writes in her autograph book a "Grantchester"-ish poem for her--or is it for George?

Next section: it is 1926, on the eve of the General Strike, and we are at Corley Court, Cecil's family home, a Victorian neo-Gothic pile like Hetton Abbey in A Handful of Dust, as it undergoes a drastic modernization at the hands of its current master, Cecil's younger brother Dudley-- for Cecil died in the war, is now entombed in the family chapel, and has become lionized in a Brooke-ish way. Dudley and Daphne...yes, the very same...have two children but the marriage is on the rocks, and collapses utterly after another weekend party.

One of the delights of The Stranger's Child is that we have to keep alert through the opening pages of each new section to see what era we are now in and how the constellation of characters has realigned. By the third section, we are about at 1967, the year homosexual acts between consenting adults were decriminalized in England. We begin with two new characters: Paul Bryant, a bank clerk, and Peter Rowe, a new faculty member at Corley Court, which, yes, has become a school. Paul has to follow his boss home on an errand one afternoon and meets his boss's wife's mother, an eccentric old woman named Mrs Jacobs, who is--wait for it--our old friend Daphne. Paul begins an affair with Peter, and both become fascinated with the family Vallance, so much so that...

...thirteen years later, Paul is hoping to make his mark as a man of letters with a biography of Cecil, and so is tracking down Daphne et al. looking for revelations. By now, biographers can choose to reveal their subjects' homosexuality (Michael Holroyd on Lytton Strachey) or be a bit cagy about it (Jon Stallworthy on Wilfred Owen). Paul suspects that Cecil was gay or bisexual, but lacks definitive proof. George imparts some astonishing revelations, but wobbly as his memory is, can he be trusted?

The book's cover is a painting by Eugene Speicher of an elegant young man seated at a table, two-thirds of his face wiped away, just hints of his features left.  Just that way, figures from the past have a startling clarity in some respects while remaining an unreadable blank in others. Is the world of the novel ever going to know Cecil as well as we its readers do?

No.

In the relatively brief final section, set more or less in our present, Peter has just died, and we are at an event paying tribute to him, our point of view that of a rare book dealer (Peter was a cherished customer). Paul is one of the speakers--he is now a literary star of Holroydean proportions, having set off a firestorm of controversy with his Cecil biography. Rob, our book dealer, has unknowingly sat down beside Daphne's grand-daughter, now an academic, who finds Rob surprisingly interested in hearing about her family. Rob returns to work to find a box has materialized, from an about-to-demolished retirement home in the Sawles' old neighborhood, containing rare manuscript materials highly germane to the lives of the very people he has just been learning about.  He dashes out to see what else might be salvaged, but...the cupboard is bare and a bonfire is going strong in the yard.

Hollinghurst gets the epic sweep--but mercifully he gets it not by drifts of accumulated scenes and plotting but by focusing on a few weekends, a few fatal confrontations, which he can conjure up with the moment-to-moment details (ashtrays, drinks, photo albums) of the classic short English novel.  Each section has the patina of the best fiction of a particular era, part one slightly Forster-ish, part two like the pre-Dance novels of Anthony Powell, part three reminiscent of Angus Wilson, part five sounding quite like the next master in that line, Alan Hollinghurst himself.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Peter Doggett, _You Never Give Me Your Money: The Baetles after the Breakup_

OF ALL THE MANY, many books on the Beatles, I was given to thinking there were only two indispensable ones... well, let's say two and a half.

First, there's the original Hunter Davies band bio, first published while the Beatles were still active, which definitively told the story of the pre-Beatlemania Beatles: Aunt Mimi, Woolton Fete, George auditions with "Raunchy" on the bus, Hamburg, Klaus and Astrid, Stu leaves, Pete out and Ringo in.... What the band was doing before almost anyone was paying attention is the secret heart of their story, and Davies told it first and told it best; Norman, Spitz, et al. have merely added superfluous detail.

Second, there's Mark Lewisohn's Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, a daily chronicle of how the band revolutionized the recording of pop music.

If you leave out the parts where he natters on about the 1960s, and despite the fact that you want to argue with him half the time, there is Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head.

Well, now there are three and a half indispensable books about the Beatles.

Granted, the title does not sound promising--hasn't the story of the decades since the breakup been one repeating loop of lawsuits, feuds, grudges, mostly mediocre albums, and boatloads and boatloads of money, punctuated by tragedy and death? Well...sure. But Doggett is so skilled a researcher, so deft a writer, so assured a narrator that the book never bogs down. He opens with the aftermath of the shooting of John Lennon, as the remaining ex-Beatles get the news--an audacious but effective move.  Then we zip back to the death of Brian Epstein and the founding of Apple, the Beatles at the height of their cultural power, and the beginning of the end--and this reader was well and truly hooked.

The strength of the book is that it is clear-eyed about the foibles of its main actors--charming but manipulative Paul, otherworldly but crabby George, good-hearted but substance-dependent-for-decades Ringo, mysterious John (apostle of peace and devoted papa, or drug-addled loon with anger management issues?)--but without any tabloid lip-smacking or gleeful defacing of the idols.  Yes, there was plenty of bad behavior all around, but Doggett always stays in touch with the idea that somehow it was all about one of the most unpredictably powerful legacies in the history of mass culture.  His book ends:

The soul of the Beatles turned out to reside not in the boardroom of Apple Corps or the bank accounts of four multimillionaires, but in the instinctive, natural grace of their songs. Their collective genius created something that not even money could destroy.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wyndham Lewis, _The Red Priest_

I HAVE READ most of the Wyndham Lewis that is out there to be read--not all of his available books, but at least thirty--yet I had never read this, his last novel, published 1956, the year before he died. I had hitherto skipped it because, first, it is hard to obtain (never appeared in that great Black Swallow Lewis republication project of the 1980s and 90s), and second, it seems to be the least appreciated of his novels. No one who has written extensively about Lewis seems to care for it much;  Paul Edwards's massive, magisterial, near-encyclopedic Wyndham Lewis: Painter and Writer does not mention The Red Priest at all.

Perfect setup for an announcement that I have discovered The Red Priest to be a stone cold lost masterpiece...alas, it is not. In fact, I'd have to say it is the worst of Lewis's novels, unless Mrs Duke's Millions, a very early work not published in Lewis's lifetime, which I also have not read, turns out to pack even less punch.

Still...not without its pleasures.

The left-leaning cleric of the title is Augustine Card, tall, attractive, well-connected, a boxer in his youth, who is making his mark at a church in London by inviting Russian clergy to his services, holding "debates," and being generally charismatic and controversial. So, are we getting Lewis-as-Trollope here, a novel on politics and the Church and the politics of the Church?

Not so fast.  We soon meet Mary Chillingham, a stunning, well-connected, 27-year old parishioner and admirer of Card.  She unexpectedly inherits a lot of money from an aunt and we are all of sudden in a Lewis version of The Portrait of a Lady, with Mary as Isabel Archer and Card as Gilbert Osmond. This is a not-so-wonderful turn, as Card begins to evaporate from his own novel as Mary, who is quite a bit less interesting than Isabel Archer, gets more attention.

It is from Mary's point of view, in fact, that we learn that Card has gotten into a fistfight with a supercilious curate and, erm, killed him.  Whoops! Card is charged with murder, convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter, does his time, lets Mary get a divorce, and goes off to Canada, where (Mary and we the readers learn from a letter) he gets into another fight and is killed. This whole last phase of the plot, from the death of the curate to Augustine's far away demise, is covered rather briskly in the last 50 pages of a 250-page novel.

So, not all that satisfactory, but still, things to enjoy--Card himself, another study in incorrigibility like Victor Stamp of The Revenge for Love or René Harding in Self-Condemned, bristly and unassimilable; the glimpses of mid-1950s London, here as in the short story collection Rotting Hill diminished and shabby and weirdly vital; and a final paragraph (about the birth of Mary's and Card's second son) that is echt Lewis:

   Mary and Basil Tertullian [their first-born son] withdrew to the plantation on the shores of Lake Rudolf, where she gave birth to another child. Her naming was more like a branding; she gave him the fearful name of Zero. She could see that he would look like his terrible father; that he was fated to blast his way across space and time.