cover image Desire Provoked

Desire Provoked

Tracy Daugherty. Random House (NY), $15.95 (245pp) ISBN 978-0-394-55334-4

With authority and humor, this first novel charts a course through the life of a cartographer who maps the universe with a computer and sketches regions of the sea on woven palm fronds. When his wife leaves with the children, Sam Adams is alone for the first time in many years. Pamela, his wife, a photographer who experiments with holograms and the printed word, wants to be a force for a better world. Sam's wishes are simpler, or so he believes. He'd like to see his kids more often; he'd like the stranger who stalks his yard to stay away; and, although aware of random forces at work in his life, he'd like to believe in a rational universe. Sam, who also plays the drums with a local band one night a week, is philosophical and sensitive, unburdened by resentment and, even so, an absolutely believable character with an emotional life as rich in magic, wonder and artistry as an ancient map of a mythical land. On an assignment in the Antarctic, he suffers a near-fatal accident during which he abandons his passivity and claims the unknown as his own. Sam thinks of himself as a mapmakera career with an intriguing vocabulary and metaphorical possibilities with which Daughterty is deliciously generous but he's also a courageous explorer of the contemporary frontiers of the interior. This is a deft and intriguing debut. (January 28)