The Book of Lazarus

Richard Grossman, Author
Richard Grossman, Author F2c $24 (487p) ISBN 978-1-57366-029-7
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 05/01/1997
Emma Stronghorse O'Banion, the protagonist of this proudly eccentric follow-up to The Alphabet Man, calls herself ""a lesbian rough-trade Catholic intellectual."" The core of the second novel in Grossman's proposed American Letters Trilogy, Emma's story begins when her father, a left-wing terrorist who abandoned her as a child, calls her to announce that he's dying. Soon, Emma, who was left homeless in Berkeley, Calif., with a wildly delusional mother, is attending the funeral of a man who is even more mysterious than she had imagined. She discovers that her father has been living under an assumed name, hiding out from the Mafia for the last two decades because he and a cadre of whacked-out associates once kidnapped the daughter of a don for ransom. Several of the cadre (and the little girl) wound up dead, while Emma's dad and others escaped with the money. In the intervening years, the survivors have been picked off by the mob, one by one. Hovering in the background of the story is Robert Lazarus, the last surviving member of the band and a pederast who may have molested Emma when she was a child. Surrounding Emma's narrative are other documents, including letters, a poem, a photo-scrapbook of true-life heroes and a psychedelic 70-page sentence fragment written by the group's most violent member. Although Grossman is an agile, imaginative writer, this effort is subverted by its odd prose mix and graphic design. Furthermore, many readers will find Emma's insistent aggression neither shocking nor provocative but simply unpleasant. (June)
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