Myself and Marco Polo: A Novel of Changes

Paul Griffiths, Author
Paul Griffiths, Author Random House (NY) $17.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-394-58296-2
Reviewed on: 03/31/1990
Release date: 04/01/1990
``The aim of an artist is to disappear from his work, leaving it to be created by the observer,'' writes London Times music critic Griffiths, who indeed lets us make what we will of his ingenious semi-historical first novel, a labyrinthine travelogue, philosophical treatise and collection of ancient legends--or perhaps simply a ``disordered sequence of anecdotes and aphorisms'' exploding with the exotic colors, flavors and scents of the Orient. The book's bare bones are these: Rusticello, Marco Polo's cell-mate in a Genoese prison in 1298, suggests ghost-writing the explorer's autobiography. Embellishing Marco's skimpy memories with Swiftian imaginings and Nabokovian wordplay, he fabricates an anachronistic romp through Eastern minds and cultures where ``truth is a journey and not a destination,'' where it is not the attainment of a goal but the ``constant trickle of impressions'' en route that sustains the soul. The trek across this spiritual and intellectual landscape can at times seem frustratingly purposeless, despite the author's feats of imagination. Recalling the tortuously esoteric style of Sartor Resartus , this novel may evoke the exasperation and admiration often elicited by Carlyle's masterpiece. (Mar.)
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