The Devil's Own Work

Alan Judd, Author
Alan Judd, Author Knopf Publishing Group $17 (115p) ISBN 978-0-679-42552-6
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 978-0-679-74745-1
Hardcover - 978-0-517-19357-0
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-0-00-654494-4
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British novelist Judd's short, ambivalent fable on the hazards of creativity and fame is distinguished by a style as psychologically nuanced as that of Henry James. Moments before he dies, O. M. Tyrrel, reclusive octogenarian doyen of English letters, bequeaths to the protagonist, fledgling writer Edward, an ancient manuscript. This virtually illegible handwritten document bestows endless creativity on its owner, dictating ideas and themes to Edward as it takes possession of his soul. Achieving fame and wealth as a postmodern novelist, Edward is also possessed by Eudoxie, Tyrell's ageless, elusive mistress, who becomes his live-in companion. Eudoxie exerts a sinister force on him and also may be the wraithlike presence made visible to the story's nameless narrator, an English teacher and old friend of Edward's who envies his success. The action moves from London to the French Riviera, where Edward seduces the narrator's wife, Chantal. Judd, a biographer of Ford Madox Ford, pays homage to that writer and his novel The Good Soldier in this homiletic parable that supports the dictum that ``truth in art matters.'' He charges postmodernist fiction with betraying that principle by blurring the line between reality and fantasy, and he tweaks the British literary establishment for its cliquishness, pretension, inflated egos and embrace of style over substance--an accusation that apparently did not serve as a handicap when the novel won the 1991 Guardian Fiction Prize in England. (June)
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