Marginalia

Doran Larsen, Author, Doran Larson, Author
Doran Larsen, Author, Doran Larson, Author Permanent Press (NY) $24 (176p) ISBN 978-1-877946-90-5
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Evocative of Nabokov's Lolita, this debut novel by Larson, a professor of literature and fiction writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio, evokes the life and times of Joseph Stoyanovich. He is the emotionally troubled author of a celebrated series of children's schoolbooks, who looks back over his ruined life following his trial for and acquittal of the charge of having sexually abused a 13-year-old girl. The namesake of ""Uncle Joe"" Stalin, Joe, the firstborn child of ineffectual activist parents, was sexually initiated at age 12 by the family housekeeper, who later became his stepmother and the mother of his half-brother, Will. While keeping his distance from the world, containing his tortured sexuality by annotating vulgar paraphrases in the margins of his own books, Joe is sometimes visited by the impish apparition of Dain, a younger brother whom he believes he killed as a child. Joe copes with his sexual hang-ups by choosing to live in Buffalo, N.Y., near the kind, ultra-pedestrian Will, and Will's young family (""For only as an uncle in cardigans can one take long walks with a blonde and freshly feminine seven-year-old without raising an eyebrow""). Incest, pedophilia, homosexuality, abortion rights and suicide visit Joe's circle of artists and academics as the plot drifts in and out of time present and time past, detailing sexual torments and desperate behaviors. Although Larson writes beautifully in patches, Joe, his friends and relatives never become compelling enough to inspire readers to untangle this snarled narrative. (Jan.)
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