Last Comes the Egg

Bruce Duffy, Author
Bruce Duffy, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (368p) ISBN 978-0-684-80883-3
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 359 pages - 978-1-56792-124-3
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The expectations raised by Duffy's astonishingly witty and entertaining first novel, The World As I Found It, which was based on the lives of philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, are soundly met in his second. As a coming-of-age story (set in the early 1960s), the new novel is more mundane in concept than its predecessor; but Duffy's raw, off-center observations and syncopated prose cut new paths through well-trod territory. When Julie Dougherty takes ill and dies at age 38, her adolescent son, Frank, who narrates, and his father spin into separate, mad orbits in Corregidor, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C. Frank's father, the self-proclaimed Mr. Fixit of the neighborhood, soon begins dating Heidi, a younger, take-charge blonde who flirtatiously wrestles and cuddles with Frank. At the first opportunity, Frank turns his back on this family drama by taking up with Alvy Loomis, a teenager with a large, unruly family and a knack for plotting reckless, violent capers. Alvy, who's convinced that his sister Charlene is in fact his mother, steals a car and leads Frank and Sheppy, a motherless black kid, on a road trip through the American South to find and confront Charlene. During the journey, Frank comes to fear Alvy. Yet he realizes that, just as the laws of thermodynamics dictate that there's always ""heat in cold,"" so is there always ""love in hate."" He sees that he can't hate Alvy or his own father without loving them, too. Against the backdrop of racial turmoil, soaking up the pop-cultural language and beat of the 1960s, Frank struggles to understand his childhood, his family and his motherless and bewildered friends. Duffy demonstrates the magic of seeing, showing how a vision of truth can turn misery into humor and pain into poetry. (Jan.)
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