Redback

Howard Jacobson, Author
Howard Jacobson, Author Viking Books $17.95 (314p) ISBN 978-0-670-81541-8
Reviewed on: 06/01/1987
Release date: 06/01/1987
G'day, sport. Jacobson (Coming from Behind, Peeping Tom can be as funny as a drenched drongo, jes' the kind of Pommie we in Owstriylia love. His story of the conversion of Karl Leon (pronounced ""Leeorhn'') Forelock, Cambridge University grad in Moral Decencies, is a good example. The daft dingo was born in Partington (``there are corners of the Earth that God appears to have . . . washed His hands of altogether'') and is recruited in the early '60s by a Jesuit priest to go Down Under for the CIA. Leeorhn (a member of the ``intellectual `right' '') is to save Owstriylia from ``drugs, pornography . . . and the little yellow devils from the north.'' In the late '70s, following a decade of almost-married domesticity with a pair of synchronized swimmers, he ends up in a feminist camp in the outback named after the daughter of Spring, for whom the warmth of mortal passion is fatal. It's here that he is bitten ``where no man can be indifferent to a bite'' by a female Redback spider, causing him ``three weeks of unshrinking verticality.'' What's worse, the symptoms of the bite annually recur, turning Leeorhn into a raving leftist radical. In artfully using the seemingly artless to satirize the prurient, this book would make Swift proud. (July 5)
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