AMERICA'S MAGIC MOUNTAIN

Curtis White, Author . Dalkey Archive $13.95 (231p) ISBN 978-1-56478-369-1

White's (Requiem ) blandiose pastiche of Thomas Mann's famous novel throws Mann's protagonist, the young German engineer Hans Castorp, into central Illinois and the 21st century. White's Castorp, recently graduated with a degree in industrial psychology, has two weeks before he starts work at the Caterpillar Company of Peoria. Castorp's aunt beseeches him to check on his alcoholic cousin, Ricky, who's doing time at the Elixir, a state-supported "recovery spa" located among hills "formed by the slag heaps left behind by a now-vanished coal industry." The setup, including a chummy omniscient narrator, is perfect for sardonic social satire, and that's what we get: Castorp's visitor quarters at the Elixir are in a garish building that formerly housed a Daffy Duck's Chicken franchise; Teddy, an impudent alcoholic child, hilariously impugns him as a fatuous bleeding-heart liberal; and prim and righteous clinic leader Rev. Phenues Boyle offers magniloquent discourses on "Family Ritual" and the inalienable rights of fathers. When Hans encounters Cecile, a sultry, middle-aged former CPA, the narrative and the humor deteriorate. Sexual and scatological anecdotes begin to irritate, and the fate of Castorp—who acquires a thirst for liquor and ends up staying at the Elixir much, much longer than anticipated—is unconvincing. One only wishes that, like Mann, White had devoted more space to the full development of his usually scabrous and magnetic wit. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/18/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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