When his wife volunteers for a circus magician's trick and then vanishes without a trace, Alex Barton sets out to find the sinister power that has kidnapped her, a quest that leads to a job as a tightrope walker. 10,000 first printing.
The book is a wild ride, I will give it that. It has a touch of magical realism, a healthy dose of the absurd, and an absolute fascination with the Circus. In many spots, it is quite haunting, and for that alone, it is worth the read.
One of the small flaws I noticed, was the absolutely unnecessary (and somewhat anti-thematic) adultury. Didn't quite get the purpose for all of that when the book is basically the main character's search for his wife. Absolute conviction and dedication don't really mix with infidelity on a plot level.
Still, at around 10 bucks, it's worth ignoring the few flaws. All-in-all, an easy-to-read entertainer with some higher aspirations.
The story is told in a straight-forward, lucid, almost childlike prose. This is both a stregnth and a weakness. While this approach-- for the most part, simple, declarative sentences-- makes it easy to read in one sitting, it robs it of a certain resonance. It a pharse, the language is not deft enough to create any real sort of ambiguity or enigma. Now, obviously, this is a matter of preference. I'm a reader of Pynchon, Millhauser, Kafka, Bartheleme, Gaddis, Barth, Coover, etc. I feel that Stevens' work is, in a sense greatly informed by such authors-- especially Millhauser, and on a more subliminal level, Kafka. Stevens does invite you into a dreamworld, but there really isn't much for the reader to do but observe. This is an enjoyable, but not challenging book. It doesn't ask the reader to do a lot of work. Worse, there is a sort of "feel-good-new-agey" thread that surfaces once in a while, and seems evident in the Hollwood-esque ending. (another reader remarked that the ending was open to interpretation-- I don't really believe that it is open to ENOUGH interpretation-- there are really only two possibilities.) The "blue light" I felt, to at once be cliche, but also not really explained well enough. There is a difference between deliberately creating ambiguity and being unclear. I think Stevens just doesn't explain himself well enough.Read more ›