cover image The Medusa Frequency

The Medusa Frequency

Russell Hoban. Atlantic Monthly Press, $0 (143pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-165-2

Again demonstrating the versatility and creative energy exhibited in Riddley Walker and Pilgermann, in this slim novel Hoban deals with existential questions: the mystery of existence, the nature of reality, the role of art. Combining satire and fantasy, and in poetic, Joycean language mixed with the vernacular, this narrative rewards the discerning reader. Herman Orff, a failed novelist who supports himself by doing cartoons for Classic Comics, is accosted by the blind head of Orpheus, his progenitor, ""the first of your line.'' Through a series of metaphysical communications that lead to an odyssey through London and Amsterdam, Orff is gradually given to understand the connection between the women in his life: his lost love Luise von Himmelbett (symbolizing Eurydice); the nubile and very available Melanie Falsepercy (symbolizing Persephone); the print of Vermeer's Head of a Young Girl that hangs above his desk and haunts his imagination; and the head of Medusa in a painting by the Dutch master Frans Post: all represent ``femaleness.'' Spare and witty, full of metaphorical, mythical and mystical allusions, the narrative sings with insights. At the same time whimsical, farcical (an advertising agency is called Slithe and Tovey) and deadly serious, it brilliantly relates the tragic ancient myths to the commonplace tragedies of modern life in a violent, dislocated age. (October 23)