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eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
PublisherOrb Books
File size4.5 Mb
Release date 01.06.1995
Pages count272
Book rating4.05 (1009 votes)
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Read for the second time during (and second favourite read of) this past summer. While he's not flashy, I find Wolfe to be a writer of considerably beautiful form and grace and pace, and this, one of his very first novels, displays that form to masterful effect. I originally read this in the mid-nineties, and partook of it for a second time this past August, when the endless sunshine and sultry heat seemed appropriate companions for the beguiling way in which Wolfe works his memes of mnemonic trespass and betrayal—and shrouds his tale with tricksy maneuvers and misdirection. The reader had damned well better be on her guard from the very moment the words The elm tree planted by Eleanor Bold, the judge's daughter, fell last night set this subtly brilliant theater of one slippery individual's mind into motion. Peace comprises, ostensibly, the memoirs of Alden Dennis Weer, a Midwestern man aged and alone and set to wandering the labyrinthine halls and chambers of his manse—quarters partially of this earth, partially of the shrouded and misdirecting dimensions of his lived-in memory. Time, in our seamless understanding, is seldom a manifold element of Weer's recollection—but rather an inventive rendering and blend of disparate and disjointed panels of anamnestic sleight-of-hand. Much of what the elder man dredges forth from sedimentary objects or events espied upon his hearth-bound traipsing opens a window upon episodes that transpired in his childhood—and it is through the collected assemblage of these stories-containing-myths-containing stories that the narrator leads the reader, bemused and beguiled, through the passage of his life and unto his present condition—senescent, embittered, and of uncertain essence—for the reader cannot but contemplate that these words are reaching out from beyond the merely historically factual, or that these chambered haunts of memory have the capacity for extension unto the spiritual when their material foundations have foundered.

What to make of Weer's childhood, its brief glimpses of parental figures ere they abandon their son with paternal relative and abscond themselves beyond oceanic barriers for what comes to seem an interminably-extended sabbatical? What of his captivating Aunt Olivia, island-ensconced princess with her train of courtiers whose masculine presence so abruptly terminates when the narrator has made that leap beyond the innocence of youth and into fields mired with guilt, falsehood, and even uglier human verities? What of that incident upon the stairs? At the bath? Ere and after the horrific screech of tires? What medical benediction is Weer really seeking when he decides to intrude upon the dreamily busy waiting room of select practitioners? Where exactly are we once the recollection has advanced to that of overseeing the process of crafting synthetic orange juice, and we are regaled with a stream of metafictional philosophies, urban discomforts, biblio-succubinal synergies, lot carnival grotesqueries, and the Miskatonic horrors of Frankenstein-fiber southern comfort? What of Cassionsville, that pseudo-sleepy Anytown, Midwestern USA, wrenched from the natives whose artistic leanings are fabricated that it might be dressed up to impress? Of this Horatio Alger success hymn wherein all of the notes are oddly threnodic, their timber speaking more of Eugene O'Neill? When you peel away the surface layers of what Wolfe has so gorgeously written; recollect quick, brief phrases from fifty pages back; note how often two and two are not approaching within a misplaced pocketknife—perhaps even a slipped porcelain egg—of four; that is, when you endeavor to puzzle together what Alden Dennis Weer has striven so valiantly to veil—though offering up the very means by which such occlusions be rent—you'll perhaps come to perceive there's very little in the way of peace to be found.

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