cover image Confessions of Brother Eli

Confessions of Brother Eli

Joseph Di Prisco, Author MacAdam/Cage Publishing $24 (322p) ISBN 978-0-9673701-5-6

Brother Eli of the Order of the Most Holy Family is an overeating, hard-smoking, hard-drinking teacher at the fourth-rate Catholic Preparatory Academy, where ""no recent graduate had matriculated to a Georgetown, a Notre Dame, or an Ivy.... Sure, some of ours headed to the Brothers' Saint Berto's College, but that hardly counted, as the major admission requirements were cardiorespiratory function and gullible checkbook."" Essayist and poet Di Prisco (Field Guide to the American Teenager) serves up a parochial world peopled by the unwashed, the unpromising and the uninterested. Two somewhat mysterious strangers arrive at Catholic Prep: novice Brother Frederick, who immediately becomes curiously popular with students and faculty alike, and a transfer student, Nadette Nevers, scorned by classmates but admired by Brother Eli for her independent spirit. Other strange goings-on include a student who is rewarded with sex for swallowing the heads of Barbie dolls and a brother who fakes a sighting of the Virgin Mary. Brother Eli is constantly fighting the established order, and his attempt to mend his ways is preempted by the clich d denouement in the form of a conflagration. The flames also take care of one of the strangers, while a cult dispenses with the other. The novel investigates every clich of the academic put-down tale, from plagiarism to four-letter words, sexual escapades among students and faculty, evil parents and rapacious alumni. There are a few humorous situations, but the philosophy espoused is often pretentious and never rises above Ethics 101. Reminiscent of A Confederacy of Dunces, the endeavor is unfortunately without that novel's manic energy or charm. (Nov.)