Friday, June 20, 2008
Friday "Forgotten" Books: William Kotzwinkle's THE EXILE
William Kotzwinkle is one of the most evocative, and one of the wittiest, of our writers; frequently but not always a fantasist (his first masterpiece and one of his most exhilarating books, The Fan Man; a mass-market chapbook, no less, of his contemporary mimetic short story The Swimmer in the Secret Sea; and one of his most harrowing novels, the autobiographical/recent-past historical Jack in the Box are the major exceptions to the fantasticated trend I've read so far). Perhaps his most impressive novel, in a career studded with impressive novels, is one of his few that are, one hopes temporarily, out of print: The Exile.
David Caspian is an aging actor facing the typical runaround that a non-star encounters in Hollywood; simultaneously, he's increasingly finding himself living a parallel life as a black-market vendor back under the Nazi regime, named Felix. Increasingly, the Felix reality is taking up more and more of Caspian's life...and as dire as things are in 1980s/contemporary Hollywood, they are unsurprisingly that much grimmer under the Reich.
This is the novel of Kotzwinkle's that Michael Chabon might've written, and that D.M. Thomas did, less effectively, as The White Hotel...even if the Thomas was an unlikely bestseller. Happily, a number of Kotzwinkle's novels and novellas (the latter often heavily intertwined with Joe Servello's illustration) are in print, even if he's perhaps best known these days as the auteur of the Walter the Farting Dog easy readers...which might eventually outsell his only bestseller, the E.T. novelization (to which Kotzwinkle wrote a sequel...haven't tried these, but suspect that they are solid work, as much as the subject would allow).