cover image Boomerang


Barry Hannah, Houghton Mifflin Company. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $15.95 (150pp) ISBN 978-0-395-48882-9

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Prize for his first novel Geronimo Rex and twice nominated for the National Book Award, Hannah ( Hey Jack! ; The Tennis Handsome ) again exhibits his antic imagination and spare but striking prose style. In his eighth book, he deals whimsically with some of the same ideas Roth explored in The Facts, but unlike that autobiography framed with fiction, Boomerang, described as a ``tender weaving of novel and autobiography,'' is published as a novel. ``Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously,'' readers are warned in the front matter. When one encounters descriptions of ``the great publisher Sam Lawrence'' arriving in a stretch limousine or mention of ``the horrible brilliant Gordon Lish,'' one cannot help but speculate over the decision to call this fiction. And yet there are sweeps of narrative that are soaringly, daringly, brilliantly original. The intelligence and visceral emotions Hannah rams onto a page can leave a reader stunned. The narrative travels out into the past and then circles back, taking a boomerang's swooping path. Lyrical passages of childhood memories are balanced by strutting, rambling riffs on post-drunken quests for respect and too-frequent references to pussy and nooky. The result is a book that staggers under a load of extraordinary writing which seems somehow lazily shovelled together. Boomerangs are hard to control; a beautiful flight often turns into an uncontrolled landing in the wrong place. (May)