A Case of Curiosities

Allen Kurzweil, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $19.95 (358p) ISBN 978-0-15-115793-8
The imaginative story spun here by first novelist Kurzweil is in itself a curious melange: a portrait of a young mechanical genius, a gallimaufry of odd and intriguing facts, and a rich, lusty picture of late 18th-century French society. A kindly, heretical abbe recognizes country lad Claude Page's skill for drawing. Under his mentor's tutelege, Claude discovers capacities for scientific inquiry, watchmaking and painting erotic scenes in miniature. But his genius is denied expression when he impulsively runs away to Paris and apprentices to a loathsome bookseller and dealer in pornography. The events that lead to the blossoming of Claude's talents are related by Kurzweil in leisurely prose animated by irony, humor and aphoristic asides. Nuggets of arcane knowledge are neatly interpolated into the story, and there are whimsical facts, too; we learn, for example, that kurzweil means ``pastime'' in German. The author is most successful, however, in creating a gallery of memorable, Dickensian characters. The bawdy inhabitants of Paris's fetid slums are depicted with affection, in contrast to the hypocritical, pretentious members of the upper class, who are unaware that the Revolution lurks around the corner. Though Claude's most brilliant invention, the ``Talking Turk,'' falls victim to that cataclysm, he leaves to posterity a ``case of curiosities'': a construction called a momentum hominum , ``the chronicle of a life. '' In this diverting novel, his inventor does the same. BOMC and QPB selections; major ad/promo. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 358 pages - 978-0-345-38057-9
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-15-601289-8
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-547-35086-8
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