cover image Almost History

Almost History

Christopher Bram. Dutton Books, $22.5 (409pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-231-7

Although Bram places his fourth novel in the Philippines during the Marcos era, he delivers little more than a surface exposure to this potentially explosive setting. Beginning in the 1950s, the narrative follows the 35-year career of Jim Goodall, an idealistic American foreign service officer committed to serving his country and bolstering basic human rights. The story is filtered through his oddly codependent relationship with a tomboyish niece, who serves as muse and mirror to his experience as a ``house guest of history.'' Goodall's own outlook is expressed in the prologue, in which he serves warning that his career was ``small potatoes'' and that he will ``stick to the potato's-eye view.'' Unfortunately this makes for a rather undramatic narrative: this minor character in history neither accomplishes his goal of self-actualization nor succeeds in exposing government corruption. Concerned that acknowledgement of his homosexuality will hamper his career, Goodall never matures beyond adolescent accommodation of his needs, and he is unable to forge meaningful relationships. His fight to illuminate the atrocities of the Marcos regime has ironic consequences. That Goodall is shallow, awkward, insecure and ultimately unlikable further diminishes the book's appeal. While earnest and sometimes insightful, this novel lacks the wit and charm of Brams's previous offerings (In Memory of Angel Clare) . (Apr.)