Old Soldier

Vance Bourjaily, Author
Vance Bourjaily, Author Dutton Books $18.95 (169p) ISBN 978-1-55611-198-3
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Bourjaily's ( Confessions of a Spent Youth ) latest is like a sumptuously wrapped box containing a gorgeous garment--in the wrong size. This story of two brothers, intricately plotted, quickly paced, fails to convince at its most crucial junctures. A model of economy, with every detail exquisitely prefiguring the violent climax as well as the haunting denouement, the narrative revolves around conventionally masculine ex-sergeant Joe and gay musician Tommy, who is diagnosed as having AIDS. The bond between the two--which encompasses Joe's relationships with Tommy's ex-wife and teenage son--is conveyed in all its painful ambiguities, with Bourjaily shifting perspectives like a master cameraman to capture the complexities of each scene. Both Joe and Tommy, furthermore, are commanding, even charismatic figures. But Tommy's responses to AIDS are so tersely explored that they seem stereotypical; and the portrait of a pivotal character here, a young man with a borderline personality, lacks authenticity. Not even Bourjaily's otherwise expert craftsmanship can disguise these flaws. (Oct.)
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