The Cliff

David R. Slavitt, Author Louisiana State University Press $26.95 (154p) ISBN 978-0-8071-1781-1
Jack Smith, the embittered and cynical protagonist of Slavitt's 50th book, is not a pleasant person-yet the author (Crossroads) carries off the feat of making him sympathetic to readers. Smith is about to be laid off from his position as assistant adjunct professor of English at a large university when serendipity strikes and he mistakenly receives an invitation, intended for a colleague of the same name, to reside at an exclusive Italian arts colony. Seizing the moment, Smith flies to the picturesque Villa Sfondrata, where he argues with his fellow guests, rails at the quality of the food and avoids making his child-support payments, all the while pretending to work on a biography of Mussolini. Then the unexpected occurs: the self-proclaimed ``ex-writer'' finds the desire to write again. Smith's witty and playful narration entertains despite some conveniences in the plot. It is his attempt to retain a sense of basic human dignity, however-his desire to prove that he is not ``an altogether worthless person''-that lies at the heart of the novel and invests it with meaning and resonance. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
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