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A Handbook for Visitors from Outer Space


By (author) Kathryn Kramer
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, United Kingdom
Published: 2nd Sep 1985
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
ISBN-10: 0571137172
ISBN-13: 9780571137176
Barcode No: 9780571137176

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Kirkus US
At an unnamed but roughly contemporary time, a war breaks out. . . somewhere. And this war is so vaguely threatening that no one's quite able to account for the anxiety it causes. Cyrus Quince's father goes off to it, leaving Cyrus to grow up in the small town of Arborville; he's enchanted by the bygone-days stories of his grandfather, former general Charles Street; Cyrus much prefers these tales to the dullness of his own time, his own colorless parents, the small tragedies of life. (The death of his retarded brother Lark, for example.) After boarding school, Cyrus goes to college. And then, one weekend, following a clue to his grandfather's unknown past, he investigates a New Jersey mansion, where the Ludwicker clan lives in dotty isolation: they all believe themselves to be royalty; they're all siblings - Xilipheupia, Constantina, Sisgismund; and they're all none other than the brothers and sisters of General Street. . . though, in Xy's case, also his "wife." The general and Xy, you see, had an incestuous love affair that produced a beautiful, genius-violinist daughter, Fritz Quadrata. . . whom Cyrus will soon meet. To uncoil this feyly twisted wire of plot, however, takes first-novelist Kramer a very long time: like Mark Helprin she has a predilection for rococo doodling and arch names. The simple enough theme - centered on paternity and origins - is wildly blown out of narrative proportion. And this inflated fantasy might be more palatable if Kramer wrote more freshly. ("If she could find out Cyrus' hidden knowledge, it, like the introductory chord in a musical composition that contained the organizing principle of the whole, would render intelligible the battle that had been at play between them in recent months, maybe always.") Attenuated, exasperating whimsy - only for the very tolerant. (Kirkus Reviews)