Quinn's Book: 2limited Edition

William Kennedy, Author Viking Books $18.95 (289p) ISBN 978-0-670-82213-3
All praise to Kennedy for a bold departure from the books that (finally) made his great reputationthe Albany cycle culminating in Ironweed. His new novel is, as they say, something completely different. The scene is still Albany and environs, but the time is the decade or so preceding the Civil War, the tone high fantastical. Daniel Quinn is a self-reliant orphan whose pluck, enterpriseand love for the dashing but elusive Maud Fallonmake him a friend of many notables and eventually a famous war correspondent. But narrative is not the essence here, though the book is full of incident and adventure, sometimes shocking, often brutal, nearly always told with the vivid colors of dream. Kennedy seems out to catch the 19th century American mindset as represented in some quintessential, legendary figures: a flamingly erotic dancer, a tough mountain of a man who rises to the top by the power of his fists and his love of gambling, the warm matriarch of a great old Dutch family, the endlessly resourceful black who helps fellow escaped slaves north to safety. There is natural calamity, riot and tragedy, leavened by frequent, unexpected humor. The book is so richly packed that sometimes the reader (and perhaps the author) loses all sense of forward motion and simply revels in the detail of the moment; this is what novels could be like if a writer felt no duty beyond that of entertaining, on a broad and generous scale but without foolishness, and crammed in anything that took his fancy. In the end, it is Quinn's endless, apparently effortless invention that dazzles, like a virtuoso musician improvising. Those who demand to know ""What's the point?'' or ``What's it all about?'' may cavil. But it gives a new spin to the tired notion of ``a good read,'' for the reader is almost as actively involved as the brilliant, chance-taking author. 200,00 copy first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; first serial to Esquire; BOMC and QPBC featured alternates. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 289 pages - 978-0-670-80437-5
Paperback - 249 pages - 978-1-55504-805-1
Hardcover - 388 pages - 978-1-55504-829-7
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-14-007737-7
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