cover image The Fever

The Fever

Wallace Shawn. Noonday Press, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-374-15467-7

The narrator is having a mid-life crisis. He's shaking and vomiting in a hotel in a strange Third World country, contemplating the plight of the poor and the oppressed around the globe. As his annoying interior monologue unfolds, he becomes increasingly nauseated by the ignorance and complacency of his own moneyed existence, although he's not quite ready to give up the perks of privilege--luxury hotels, fine restaurants, glamorous theater events--in order that others might be able to feed their hungry children. The speaker wonders how he and his friends could be ``decorating their lives and their world as if they were having a permanent party'' while citizens in countries under totalitarian rule are being tortured and killed, yet he is unable to shake the contempt he feels for the impoverished. At the end of this pointless book, Shawn states that the considerable efforts of concerned parents, artists and politicians ``do not change the life of the poor,'' a conclusion that the narrator conveniently employs to alleviate his guilt long enough to allow him a decent night's rest. This work was the basis for a dramatic monologue performed in New York City. Shawn is a playwright and actor. (Mar.)