cover image Kraven Images

Kraven Images

Alan Isler, National Galleries of Scotland. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $21.95 (264pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-13-2

Though good-natured, Nicholas Marcus Kraven, a visiting lecturer in English at a Bronx college, is a compulsive liar, a lustful cad and a would-be seducer of students. He's an imposter as well, posing as his dead English cousin, whom ""Nicholas"" secretly helped through London University by writing all his papers. Yet Kraven is also a man haunted by his past-by the death of his father 33 years ago, in 1941 England, where their family of Polish Jews had emigrated to escape the Nazis; and by family demons of self-destructiveness and relentless womanizing. Isler-whose first novel, The Prince of West End Avenue, won the 1994 National Jewish Book Award (and was a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee)-combines a raucous send-up of the lit-crit industry with a serious tale of one man's quest for identity. Much of the satire is obvious, however, and it's difficult to care enough about Nicholas to sustain interest in his coincidence-laden trip to his boyhood English home, where he learns about the circumstances of his birth. Still, there's delicious irony in Isler's wry portrait of a man who devotes his life to the pursuit of truth even as he lives a lie. Paperback rights sold to Penguin; simultaneous U.K. publication by Random House/Jonathan Cape UK; foreign rights sold to Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland. (Apr.)