An Elegy for September

John Nichols, Author
John Nichols, Author Henry Holt & Company $18.95 (161p) ISBN 978-0-8050-1994-0
Reviewed on: 06/01/1992
Release date: 06/01/1992
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-345-37994-8
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Nichols enjoys a sizable cult reputation on the strength of his New Mexico trilogy ( The Milagro Beanfield War ; The Magic Journey ; The Nirvana Blues ) , but it is hard to imagine any but the staunchest of his supporters finding much to cheer about in his latest work. Slender both literally and metaphorically, Elegy tells the story of an unnamed novelist who, like Nichols, is 51 years old and lives in New Mexico. The protagonist suffers from heart trouble and is in the middle of his second divorce when he begins receiving fan letters from a 19-year-old college student (``the same age as his daughter'') who has fallen in love with him through his writing. She comes west for a three-week writing seminar and they begin a brief, intense affair that ends when, considering the future implications of the difference in their ages, he begins to withdraw into a self-protective shell. The young woman is neither appealing nor believable, the man is a morass of self-pity, and the novel is a ponderous array of cliches. The situation reeks of mid-life male fantasizing, and its muted collapse leaves the reader unmoved. The book comes to life only when Nichols writes of mountain terrain, through which his protagonist moves with a satisfying ease. (June)
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