The Scapeweed Goat

Frank Schaefer, Author Poseidon Press $17.45 (200p) ISBN 978-0-671-67503-5
This first novel is an anomaly, an 18th century cautionary tale set in the 19th century and written by a 20th century author. As a result, it is neither fish nor fowl and though in some respects curiously compelling, it is in the end a disappointment. Narrated by J, an elderly homesteader writing his memoirs in an isolated cabin as he awaits the winter thaw, the novel segues between the present, and J's desperate attempts to ward off starvation, and his reminiscences about the past. In 1845, we learn, J and his wife K moved to a small, fertile valley to farm. When David, a wounded, emaciated ``breed,'' stumbles on their homestead, they take him in. David is a ``Noble Savage,'' a member of a Utopian Society that bases its beliefs on a bastardized version of Rousseau's writings. Over four generations, the isolated community has developed into a rigid, class-conscious hierarchy whose religious ceremonies culminate in human sacrifice. A confrontation with this half-crazed sect precipitates tragedy and leads to J's vengeful vow to destroy the barbaric society. Utilizing an ornate, old-fashioned prose style brimming with portentously emphasized phrases (``the Potion of Expiation''; ``the Feast of Fecundity''), Schaefer aims to invest his fable with brooding atmosphere, but instead calls attention to a timeworn device. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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