cover image Celebration


Harry Crews. Simon & Schuster, $23 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-684-83758-1

With more than 20 books behind him, Crews (The Mulching of America, etc.) tightens his grasp on the reins that guide readers into his comically twisted, dark world. His newest satire takes place in a south Florida retirement community called Forever and Forever, whose owner, Stump (named for his handless arm), prefers to keep his community a place for the dying and near-dead, refusing to acknowledge the individuality of its residents, the Old Ones. The community drastically changes, however, when a sex-exuding teenage woman called Too Much, whose habit it is to ferociously scratch herself in obscene places, drifts onto the scene. She will do anything (even facilitate the death of those who refuse to improve their lives) to make everyone believe in what she calls the ""chance of ultimate possibility"" and to give meaning to their declining years. She even performs an erotic ""circus act"" with Stumps' stump in order to help him forget his deformity. The novel culminates in a May Day celebration that Too Much has planned to make the Old Ones feel young again. Even with the recalcitrant, racist Stump in the way, Too Much's work shows profit when Justice, a black wino and former boxer, sets aside his bottle and becomes aware of his possibilities. But, this being Harry Crews, warm sentiment is not the governing authority. No one escapes Crews's critical pen as his caricatures comically portray the elderly coming to grips with the brutal and messy reality of mortality. (Jan.)