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A Singular Man. Donleavy and Gover were obviously plagued by acute cases of the Problem of the Second Novel. Our appetite for comedy has grown in harness with the publicity machinery that seems to drive a successful comic novelist, especially a very young one, almost batty with self-consciousness.

No wonder in that either, when you consider the rewards and difficulties of raising a laugh. Humor alone, that magnificent discovery of those cut short in their calling to the highest achievement, those who falling short of tragedy are yet as rich in gifts as in suffering, humor alone perhaps the most inward and brilliant achievement of the spirit attains to the impossible and brings every aspect of human existence within the rays of its prism.

Don-leavy hit on a neat division between Dedelean sensitivity, most of which went into description, atmosphere and resistance to dullness, and a blunt Gogarty smoking-room gusto, most of which went into action and speech. Jolly sex, moral anarchism, male narcissism, cultural hooliganism; this was one kind of antidote to leftist gloom and the slicker, blander Herbert Gold kind of thing. Dublin deserved it, Ireland expected it, New York consecrated it. But there are not many Dublins left where being Rabelaisian has all that venerable tradition behind it, all that lovely grim ready-made puritanism to set it off, and Donleavy wisely refrained from trying to flush those pigeons twice.

Back, then, to New York spiritually if not geographically and a plunge into the acidulous solvents of the new cool higher comedy that flourishes these days under the aegis of Genet, Beckett, Ionesco et al. To have kept his hearty heterosexual chastity in this literary maelstrom was quite a feat, almost saintly indeed. And the prose!

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In other words, A Singular Man is like one of those enormous California carnival floats advertising some humble, unexceptionable commodity like oranges. It begins, quite well, as a small-town who-done-it. Someone has sunk a hatchet in the skull of a beautiful young unprotected housewife and the narrator, a local reporter, drives out to her house in the early morning after an unsuccessful seduction of the sex-kitten in the next apartment and chews over the crime in manly anguish in the company of a well-drawn bunch of reporters, neighbors, and cops. All this is A-OK, first class movie writing. But then comes trouble.

Anyway, our hero returns, observing along the way many ificant road-s revealing the Hollowness of Our Culture, delivers his story to the paper, and has another go at the kitten in a long spicy episode during which one can hear the heavy breathing of Mr. Barney Rosset in the background. But once more the girl funks out, our man is wretched and is finally nabbed by the police on the fire-escape trying to get back into her bedroom. So what does he do? I hope this summary has indicated enough of the boisterous whirlwind tour of the contemporary conscience that Gover has provided in The Maniac Responsible.

The young man is a noisy rattle. The writing shows promise. Et alors…Kerouac canadien de Lowell, Massachusetts, which I maintain is the best and truest Kerouac, although this tear-soaked monstrosity of a book seems deed to hide the fact from all but his fellow anointed. Kerouac has survived the nightmare, a parody by John Updike anthologized by Dwight Macdonald, and has nothing more to lose, no further depths to plumb. To call Visions of Gerard a self-parody, or even a hilarious take-off on those creep biographies of wee sainted children cut off in the cradle, would be wide of the mark.

Visions of Gerard is all-out sentimentality of an intensity I believe unmatched in Western literature. That is a bold claim, but this is a book that goes beyond any conceivable definition of courage. Like the giraffe, it just exists.

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This has grown on him steadily since the relatively straightforward On The Roadso that the sentimentality which was pretty well sublimated into the fabric of On the Road here separates out into child worship on the one hand and near-gibberish on the other, with a brief but solid core of excellent writing in the middle. By now we have a sufficient idea of the Christo-Buddhist-Hindu heaven that beckons him on.

He has much to say about that in this book, contritely, worriedly, rebelliously. Sometimes it thins to a diaphanous mist, sometimes gathers into black thunderhe of rhetoric. But the circumstances made clear is that this turbulent psychology has firm roots in his boyhood. Men who kept their he above water, like the good father Emil of this book, were as heroic in their way as the East Side Jews of Malamud. There is a good and a bad sentimentality, and this, if it is sentimental, belongs to the good. But then there is Gerard, and Gerard is unquestionably the sweetest, dearest, sickest and most saintly tot in fiction since Little Nell, her true bridegroom in heaven.

In any case, he dies at age nine of rheumatic fever and his invalidism is the plot of the book. As he lies there making his perfect little drawings or playing with his Erector set a searing irony there! It may have been like that. Best of The New York Review, plus books, events, and other items of interest. He has contributed interviews, essays, translations, and reviews on Italian writers to various journals including Parnassus, Cantoand The Italian Quarterly.

He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Read Next.

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Submit a letter: us letters nybooks. Reviewed: A Singular Man by J. This Issue November 28, News about upcoming issues, contributors, special events, online features, and more. The New York Review of Books: recent articles and content from nybooks. I consent to having NYR add my to their mailing list. More by R. The Magician. Flint R. Irving Howe. Jason Epstein. George Orwell. Midge Decter. Sandra Lim. Alex Dimitrov. Maureen N. Sylvia Legris.

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