The title character in this ponderous second novel by the author of Landscape Memory is a history professor in an unnamed city who is about to start work on his latest scholarly treatise: The History of Insurance: The Insurance of History . Dee meets and becomes obsessed with a mysterious three-foot-tall woman, who seems to know a great deal about him. After she mails him excerpts from a story about a boy named Oscar Vega, his obsession extends to Vega as well. Having woven an air of mystery around these characters in the first half, Stadler sets about demystifying them in the second: Vega is real; the woman (who was once bigger but has been ``waning, as of late'') is the wife of the chairman of Dee's department and was an intimate of Dee's late father. The details all come together in Holland where Dee is researching a 17th-century Dutch opera house built for the premiere of an operatic version of Purcell's The Tempest . Stadler is trying too hard here, troweling on the symbolism and innuendo, the footnotes and lengthy excerpts--from Dee's History of Insurance and especially from the opera. Written in the stiff formal style of an awkward translation of Kafka, Stadler's novel wants to be ``literature'' rather than just ``fiction,'' but because the story is neither exciting nor thought-provoking, the end result is simply deadening. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993 Release date: 08/01/1993 Genre: Fiction
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