cover image WHITE APPLES


Jonathan Carroll, . . Forge, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-0388-2

God is a tile mosaic, chaos is a fat man in a cheap blue suit and death is a learning experience for the deceased in this glib metaphysical fantasy from the author of The Wooden Sea. Vincent Ettrich, a likable rogue and womanizer, is shocked out of his daily routine one day by the memory that he died a short time before. With the help of a guardian angel, Vincent discovers that he has been summoned back to existence by the spirit of his unborn child with lover Isabelle Neukor. Vincent's death has inculcated him with information crucial to the harmonious ordering of life, and he spends most of the novel desperately trying to recall what he learned and avoiding avatars of chaos determined to stop him. The story is a classic Carroll romp in which personified states of mind achieve independent life, characters interact with quirky incarnations of aspects of themselves, and bizarre metaphors ("When you're dead they teach you how to make a water sandwich") are illuminatingly literalized. But Vincent's puzzlement over his quest and the iconic roles others play in it demands talky explanations that interrupt the spontaneous flow of fantasy and suggest the author has overreached in his stabs at inventive symbolism. The novel boasts its share of the fresh perspectives on life and love that Carroll's fans have come to expect, but readers may finish it feeling a bit like Vincent, more instructed than entertained. (Oct. 2)