I'm pleased that I searched out LUNAR ATTRACTIONS (1979), Clark Blaise's first novel, a book that has sadly, I suspect, been largely forgotten today. I recently read Blaise's fine literary memoir, I Had a Father: A Post-Modern Autobiography, which piqued my curiosity about his writing career. LUNAR ATTRACTIONS was a revelation. Highly autobiographical in nature, it tells the story of David Greenwood, son of Canadian parents, raised in the swamps of south central Florida. But Blaise's portrait of that area and its poorly educated, worm-ridden inhabitants bears little resemblance to, say, the Florida depicted by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in The Yearling (Aladdin Classics), or the cleaned-up terrain in the TV series, "Gentle Ben." An overweight, unathletic mama's boy who loves maps and memorizing things, David suffers the usual fears and uncertainties of childhood and then some. And then, when the family moves to a large Ohio city the awful pangs of adolescence and David's late-blooming sexual awakening take center stage. About this an early review from "The National Review" stated -
"The most ferocious and astonishing scene of adolescent sexual first contact ever written in English: in fiction"
Amen, brother. That comment says it all about one of the most pivotal scenes in the novel. Blaise's book is a story that builds slowly and artfully to the aforementioned sexual encounter, and then tries to make sense of it all as David continues his education, sexual and otherwise.
I suspect LUNAR ATTRACTIONS was considered a shocking novel in its day for its unusually frank treatment of sexual matters. Hell, it would probably be considered pretty shocking even today. But it works. It all fits within the framework of this unusual coming of age tale set in the early 1950s. Soon I'll have to try some of Blaise's short stories, but in the meantime I'll be thinking of this one for quite a while. Highly recommended.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER