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Publishers Weekly, 1998-03-02 Like a conjurer, Irwin (The Arabian Nightmare) performs deft sleight-of-hand tricks with the concept of perspective in this brilliant and mischievous novel. A British surrealist painter named Caspar looks back at events between 1936 and 1952 and records a story of romantic obsession. The artist/writer considers his tale an "anti-memoir" because he distrusts his own memory, infected as it is by a hyperactive imagination. He begins by recalling his life in London, Paris and Munich during the 1930s, when he was deeply involved with a bohemian community of surrealist writers, artists and hangers-on dedicated to shocking bourgeois society out of its lethargy. Caspar's life changes dramatically when he falls in love with Caroline, a typist who quickly adapts to her "spiffing adventure" among the surrealists. (The large cast of fictional characters is augmented by a number of celebrities of the time, including Gala Dali, Paul Eluard and Andre Breton.) Caspar adores Caroline, paints her, even offers to abandon his art and go into business if she will only have him. She politely fends off his attentions; but, when she suddenly vanishes, he is devastated. Even time spent in a madhouse and his experiences during the war fail to diminish his obsession for her. Under Irwin's skillful touch, Caspar becomes the ultimate irony: an artist who lacks perspective and a surrealist devoid of any true appreciation for the absurdities of life. Irwin has fashioned a devilishly clever plot, masked it with an eccentric cast and a narrator of dubious authority, then enhanced the work with a prose style that is intelligent and crisp in its execution. (Apr.)
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