THE AMBIDEXTRIST

Peter Rock, Author
Peter Rock, Author . Context $21.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-893956-22-3
Open Ebook - 978-1-59692-915-9
Paperback - 225 pages - 978-1-931561-86-0
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At the center of this desolate novel filled with vagrants, wayward teens and lonely, fearful men and women, is Scott, a drifter with a "stupid kind of charm," who supports himself by participating in psychiatric experiments. On the grimy banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, he meets and befriends Ray, an older homeless man living in a dismal corner of the city's waterworks, hiding from people in his makeshift garden. Scott himself has come to Philadelphia with delusions of entering into standard society: he fixes his attention on Ruth, a lonely airline security worker whose 13-year-old brother, Terrell, has fallen in with a gang of teenage thugs who kill time on the dingy waterfront. As Ruth rebuffs Scott's advances, he attempts to form a friendship with Terrell, who has increasingly come under the malignant influence of his new friends. Their antics begin harmlessly enough—tattoos, fooling around with girls—but soon escalate into cruelty and violence. Though his portrayal of the itinerant existence of Scott and Ray, as well as of the cockiness of Terrell and his teenage friends, is direct and unsentimental, Rock (Carnival Wolves) shies away from probing deeper into the psyches of his characters or exploring their motives. This lends his story a journalistic, almost documentary immediacy, but also distances the readers from Rock's protagonists. The novel is best appreciated for its taut, spare prose, which skillfully evokes the isolation of listless lives. (Jan.)

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