Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 6, 1972 · Page 83
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August 6, 1972

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 83

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, August 6, 1972
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Page 83
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SPEAKING OF BOOKS Patricide at the suspense level Religious book on Vietnam "FATHER PIG," by Burt Hirschfeld, Arbor House, Burt Hirshfeld's newest novel, "Father Pi" explores the generation gap. The characters fall in two categories: the middle-aged, middle-class (though some are decidedly wealthy and powerful); and the radical college-aged children of these adults. Sometime before the action of the book takes place, the generation gap has widened to a generation chasm. There is none of the usual squabbling and s c r e a m i n g b e t w e e n generations here, and no slamming of doors and running away from home. Hirschfeld's five young characters have long since left home, and he takes over when their frustrations have hardened into a plan to eliminate some of their problems-- by murdering their parents. The mastermind of the scheme is 19 year-old Eva Breed who enlists the support of four teen-aged boys. Eva, Kenneth, Stephen, Ray and Jordan are all Columbia University dropouts, and Hirschfeld sketches their t r a i n i n g f o r "The Revolution" in terms which make them stereotyped brick and bomb throwers: all have worshipped Che Guevara, been Weathermen, and. gone underground. H a v i n g d i s c i p l i n e d themselves to c o m m i t murder, they assume their mission with .resolute devotion and then separate to take up strategic positions, each member of the group stalking and attempting to kill a parent. Periodic reports of success or failure are telephoned to Eva in her New York headquarters. The words "Father Pig" are either shouted .by. the assailant during the" murder a t t e m p t or t h e y a r e scrawled on the wall after a successful assault. For the most part, the plot ·works well. Eva Breed's father eventually pieces the clues together and discovers the plan after rebuffing two 'attempts on his life. But he is finally killed in a not-so- accidental automobile wreck. The other parents refuse to heed Breed's warnings until it is too late, and all but Charles Livingston, the book's major character, are . m u r d e r e d . It is Livingston alone who plans carefully for his own son's onslaught at the family's isolated mountain cabin. The finest writing of the book is the climactic con- f r o n t a t i o n between Livingston and son and the ensuing chase through the rough mountain terrain. In this chapter, Hirschfeld writes with an Icy pen. The prose is lean and hard. There is no flab, and the episode STATE MAGAZINE, vibrates in the reader somewhere near his solar -plexus. It is alive and frighteningly credible. .And so the whole book should be--but isn't. The problem is that the reader knows almost from the b e g i n n i n g w h o t h e murderers are, what their motives are, and whom they . will strike next. There is little of the surprise that a r e a l t h r i l l e r o f f e r s . Hirschfeld's book is predictable, almost inevitable, and the predictability wears on the reader's patience. s Another monumental drawback here is that in his a t t e m p t t o c r e a t e verisimilitude, Hirschfeld creates, for the most part, stereotyped characters with no life. The author seems to imagine his product being scrutinized by a group of knowledgeable hippie types who will scorn any falsification of their life style. So he tries his best to reproduce, in cinematic detail, the language and culture of The Movement. He creates instead a catalogue of hippie a p p a r a t u s a n d c l i c h e phrases that hang like ill- fitting garments around his characters. The same pigeonhole technique also applies to the parents, with the possible exception of Charles Livingston, whose portrait Hirschfeld has considered more carefully. For the most part, "Father Pig" fails. But it does so with style. There are some fine moments--just not quite enough of them--to make a fine book. --Robert Irwin (Mr. Irwin is a graduate assistant in English at West Virginia University.} Best Sellers (C) 1972 New York Times Service This analysis is based on reports obtained from more than 125 bookstores in 64 communities of the United. FICTION "Jonathan. Livingston Seagull;" Bach. '"The Winds of War," Wouk. "The Word, "Wallace. "My Name Is Asher Lev" Potok "The Terminal Man," Crichton. GENERAL "I'm O.K.-You're O.K.," Harris. "0 Jerusalem!" Collins and Lapierre. "The Boys of Summer," Kahn. "The Superlawyers," Goulden. "Open Marriage," O'Neill O'Neill. "NOTHING AND SO BE IT" by Oriana Fallaci, Doubleday, $7.95. Even with the millions upon millions of words already written on Vietnam, this book still stands' as a moving and powerful journey into the horrors and 'chaos of that war. Described as a "personal search for meaning in war," this wartime diary was a bestseller in Italy and a winner of the 1971 Bancarella Prize. Its author, an Italian female journalist, made three trips to Vietnam in the space of a y e a r as well as being wounded in the October, 1968, Mexico City student strike over the Olympic Games. The contrast of the two provided the meaning the war itself could not give her. The diary began as a question posed by iMiss Fallaci's younger sister Elisabetta: "Life, what is it?" . Her answer--"Life is the time that passes from the moment we're born to the moment we die"--may have been existential, but it was hardly satisfactory, so she undertook to record her''ex- periences, including battle scenes and interviews, glimpses of the Vietnam political battleground, diaries taken from dead Vietcong and North Vietnamese, her own fears and indignation. America, she saw, was a bumbler in Southeast Asia, compared to the image of a bumbling tourist (American, THE YOUNG CHILDREN'S BRITANNICA JUNIOR ENCYCLOPEDIA ENCYCLOPAEDIA . lOYCARSOFASC. 26 VOLUMES.' n 2,500 S Of ORIGINAL PIC- TUHCS.POEMS. HOW-TO-BO-ir PBCJECTS.ANS COMPLETE COVERAGE WITH SIMPLIFIED VOCABULARY, EASV-TO-READ TYPE. TlNKERBELL BUBBLE AND SPRAY SET YOUNG ^HORSMAN/ HALT GISKCY'S BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS xir- PROPEUEP ACTION BED Knickerbocker TMS CONTEST PICTURE coMHm «Nt coiot mini CUT out. MINT m M t. *ct. AOCIHI m» to UNCII MUCINT. c aptly enough) helping Christ off the cross: First, he removes the nails from the hands, and Christ tumbles head-first to the ground, feet still impaled to the gibbet, and hangs there even more ignobly and ludicrously. Thus, America helping Southeast Asia. Miss Fallaci's search becomes one for compassion amid passion, coherence amid incoherence, wholeness amid the broken and shattered, s^nse amid the senseless, meaning amid the meaningless, life amid death, beauty amid ugliness, faith amid despair, charity amid w a r , resurrection amid ruins. She sees it all as the tragicomic crucifiction which only produces more indignation within her, but the police brutality she sees and suffers amid the Mexico City riots provides the contrast and perspective she needs. By comparison, war seems fair. Her early prayer: "Our Father, who art in heaven, give us this day our daily massacre, deliver us from pity, love and the teaching your son gave us. As it has been good for nothing, it is good for nothing. Nothing and amen." Such a prayer becomes an affirmation, a resignation and perhaps a resurrection in her final answer to the question "Life, what is it?": '"Yes, what is life?" "It is something you've got to fill up well, without wasting any time. Even if you break it by filling it too full." "And when it's broken?" "It's no longer any use. Nothing and amen. Nothing,. and so be it." While not a religious person in the sense of established religion, the book is, nonetheless, a religious book. Overall, it's unforgettable. --Joseph Meledin Jr. Eerie horror story Augusts, 1972 "THE NIGHTCOMERS," by Michael Hastings; Delacorte Press, $5.95. Did you ever read Henry James', "The Turn of the Screw"? If you did, have you wondered about some of the things which this important writer left unsaid about the characters in this novel? Why is the ghost of Peter Quint a menace to the two orphans, Miles and Flora? -How did Quint die? What was his relationship to the children's governess, Margaret Jessel, and how and why did she die? I have been able to live almost 40 years of my life without ·worrying about these burning queries. However, they have so obsessed a talented young British author, Michael Hastings, that he decided to write his own novel based on the James work to provide answers to such questions. Hastings', "The Nightcomers", ends where "The Turn of the Screw" begins. All of the Jamesian characters are here: The Master of Ely House, who cares little a b o u t the children; Mrs. Grose, the plump housekeeper who personifies m o r a l i t y ; the c h i l d r e n ; Q u i n t , t h e villainous ex-valet, and Miss Jessel, the governess, right out of Charlotte Bronte'. There is evil versus good. Love is hate and love is pain. Murder, terror, and Freudian explanations abound. It should be said that this book, not much longer than its prototype, can stand alone. It is a tightly written, eerie horror story not necessarily recommended for reading alone at home late at night. In a sort of apologia for his novel, Hastings quotes » number of authorities on "The Turn of the Screw" including James on James. A short statement from Aldous Huxley would seem to personify the opinion of James purists, "Never med : . die with 'The Turn of the Screw' ". But, Hastings did meddle and the result is not all that bad. Unfortunately this is the time of the evil children novel, and this small book will probably be lost in the shuffle. My wife who read it some time before I did kept saying she'd be interested in my reaction to it. After this review was outlined, I discussed it with her. She said "that's: not the book I read." She had also perused Tom Tryon's,- "The Other", and it and "The Night- comers" simply blended together in her mind as one. If you can keep such books separate, and remember that "The Bad Seed" was written a decade ago, and "Rosemary's Baby" was a novel and a movie from a few years ago and that "The N i g h t c o m e r s " is "a speculation" based on Henry James' novel, you will probably enjoy this horror story. :' Robert E. DiBartolomeo Mr. DiBartolomeo ' if director of museums at Oglebay Institute, Wheeling. Paperbacks "THE JUSTICE MACHINE," by Don Holt, $1.25. * * * "TIMETRACKS," by Keith Lauiner, $.95. * * * "INDIAN ORATORY." compiled by W. C. Vander- werth, $1.65. CHARLESTON, W. VA..

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