Hearing Voices

A. N. Wilson, Author W. W. Norton & Company $22.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-393-03875-0
Required reading for those who've read the three previous volumes of The Lampitt Papers books, this novel may hold less interest for others new to the series. Yet Wilson's always trenchant comments on the art of writing, the social comedy of the British class system, the effects of memory and the workings of the Church are stimulating in themselves, even when the plot slows to accommodate flashbacks to the earlier stories. Julian Ramsey, radio performer, stage actor and aspiring biographer of Edwardian belletrist James Petworth Lampitt, is now 65, a ``lonely skinny old man'' in New York in the year 2000. Julian narrates some chapters; others are third-person flashbacks to events that occurred during the 1960s. The narrative accrues to a lifetime of ``hearing voices,'' the ongoing inner dialogue in which Julian recalls friends, incidents, desires, unrequited love, matters of conscience, desolations and epiphanies-memories that are much ``truer'' than any biography can ever be, Wilson suggests. Here, Julian finally has an insight about how the deaths of ``Jimbo'' Lampitt and of the wealthy American collector of his work, Virgil Everett, are related, though this will come as no surprise to the reader. Meanwhile, events leading up to the Pope's encyclical banning birth control have a bearing on the plot; and some devastatingly funny scenes of the drug culture and of politically correct dinner parties paint a typically British picture of the States. Wilson is always worth reading for his literate prose and his wit, but the tone here is so somber that readers are more than prepared for the emotional downer of the funeral that ends the novel. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996
Release date: 01/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 214 pages - 978-0-393-31633-9
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