THIRTEEN ALBATROSSES (or, Falling off the Mountain)
This uneven and somewhat disappointing 11th novel by Harington, a University of Arkansas art history professor who has become a cult figure among noted literati, resumes the whimsical and ribald history of the denizens of Stay More, a mythical backwater in the Arkansas Ozarks. Revisiting Vernon Ingledew and Vernon's first-cousin common-law wife, Jelena (from Harington's 1975 novel, The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks), the tale picks up 27 years later as Vernon, now 48 and wealthy from his Ingledew Ham business, decides to run for governor. Among his albatrosses are his atheism, his relationship with Jelena and the fact that he wants to do away with hospitals and handguns. With virtually unlimited financial resources, Vernon sets out to win the election by assembling the Seven Samurai, a group of top political professionals recruited from a team that masterminded fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton's move to the White House. The outlandish cast includes a sexy Osage Indian millionairess and her gay seven-foot chauffeur, who has the hots for Vernon's aging factotum, George Dinsmore. Thrown into the mix are some real-life figures (U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers and Tyson Foods exec Archie Schaffer), and the author himself makes some intrusive cameo appearances. Striving too hard to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, much of the novel's first half wallows around in a mire of boorish references to the author's earlier novels, interlaced with clumsy drivel about the characters and the Ozarks. Happily, however, the second half steers back toward its satiric mark, acquiring the momentum of expert storytelling and showing flashes of vintage Harington. (Apr. 1)
Forecast:Perennially underappreciated, Harington deserves to break out. Chances are, however, that this novel won't do the trick, despite the promising Clinton spoof and political hijinks (and a striking red, white and blue jacket).
Release date: 04/01/2002