No novel in recent memory has been observed from such a ceramically cool detachment as the Sumerian bowl that narrates Fischer's latest. The young British author's two previous books featured unusual narrators--The Thought Gang had a Cambridge philosophy professor turned bank robber, while Under the Frog, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, starred a Communist Hungarian ""Locomotive"" basketball team. The jaded piece of pottery here, however, has spent a millennia inertly observing human foibles. Seeking refuge from this wearying spectacle by joining the collection of Marius, a rich and vulgar collector, the bowl finds itself unexpectedly detained by Rosa, a young London appraiser of antiquities, who suspects the vessel of lying about its age and authenticity. Soon, Rosa is fascinated by the ancient urn, cherishing it as though it had inspired centuries of Keatsian odes. The narrative grows off-puttingly baroque, however, as the objet issues mock-erudite musings on truth and beauty, shaggy-dog stories full of Rabelaisian humor and probability-straining coincidences. At the same time, the imperturbable urn passively narrates the invasion and gradual takeover of Rosa's uninvited houseguest, Nikki, a nympho-kleptomaniacal trapeze artist. Alas, Fischer's clever conceit and bizarre events are stretched too far in different directions to join satisfyingly in a finale that involves a contract on Nikki and the antiquity's hatred of Gorgon-adorned vases. After two strikingly funny and intelligent novels, the verbally and imaginatively extravagant Fischer has indulged himself in a lesser piece of zaniness. BOMC/QPB alternate. (May) FYI: In 1993, Granta named Fischer one of the ""Best Young British Novelists.""
Reviewed on: 04/28/1997 Release date: 05/01/1997 Genre: Fiction