Volume 11 Number 3.
Cutting Through is the second volume of two books titled, collectively, Difficulty at the Beginning; the first book, A Knife in My Hands, was reviewed by me in CM X/21982.
Cutting Through continues the story of John Dupre, a West Virginian whose identity crisis persists to the end of the second volume. In the first half of Cutting, Dupre searches his family history for clues to the question, Who am I?, and just after he finds out the family secret, that section ends with no resolution. The second half is another story with some of the same characters who, along with Dupre, spend most of their time drunk and/or stoned on various drugs. It takes place in Boston in the late sixties and early seventies amid student upheaval and many vituperative polemics against everyone and everything. I do not think Dupre was still asking, Who am I?, and if he was, I doubt he would have found any answer.
In the first book, Knife, he was sexually obsessed with tomboyish girls, and he continues to be obsessed in Cutting. He also becomes obese. He loses the extra pounds near the end of the book, but replaces food binges with drug binges.
For me the only pleasant part of Cutting was Dupre's family history. Their stories were much more interesting than his own. The old relatives were more intriguing and lively than his young friends, only one of whom I found sympathetic. Tom, an ex-GI, who tells his own story concurrent to Dupre's in the second half. His pithy comments and unanalytical thoughts are a relief from Dupre and Co.'s drugged intellectualizing. Tom wants to go home to North Dakota but does not because of a woman. Simple. He is not hanging around because of some unknown, unresolvable great theme.
The book is not badly written, it is competent, it moves quickly, it is not boring, it just did not make any sense to this reader. I literally missed the point. The characters, especially Dupre, do not grow, or learn much, or change. The major revelation Dupre has is that he is an alcoholic as were his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. The book ends with Dupre's clichée thought that life is a card game. Maillard's books will have a limited esoteric appeal.
David J. Young, Vancouver, BC.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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