CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Clark Blaise.

Toronto, Double-day, c1983.
253pp, cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 0-385-15474-7.

Reviewed by Joan VanSickle.

Volume 12 Number 1
1984 January

Lusts contains some of the same elements that appear in Sophie's Choice, by William Styron: a dark Holocaust shadow, a young writer, a Jewish family, the Southern United States, New York City, mental stress, suicide, some torrid sex, and a retrospective first-person narrative. These elements, however, when combined by Blaise, result in a cryptically spare account of a life, unlike Styron's detailed revelation of Sophie's dreadful secret.

The connection with Sophie's Choice has been made only to place Lusts in context. It is a late fifties story, written as a series of letters. The letters are from the writer-husband of a dead poet to her biographer. Their cumulative effect is not so much to reveal the poet, whose suicide stunned her devoted followers, but rather to illuminate a flawed relationship wherein magnetism replaced understanding and provided only a catalyst to destruction of great creative talent.

The poet, Rachel, a passionate cosmopolitan Jew, is contrasted sharply against Richard, an aggressive working-class author from Pittsburgh. His dreams have carried him to a posh southern university where he has discovered a talent for writing profitably about his own grim upbringing. Rachel's writing emanates from her reaction to the events of World War II. The couple, therefore, shares no common ground except their marriage, which erodes gradually as they develop their individual literary interests.

The silent partner in the novel is Rosie, the biographer. Through her questions and guidance, Richard is encouraged to tell his version of the story of Rachel's life and death, and the reader gradually learns of the dousing of the couple's lusts for each other and their creative vision. Richard writes from his new home in India, from his new vocation as woodworker, from his new introspective calm. It is this new Richard that Rosie draws to the surface by means of her requests for information about Rachel.

The themes and style developed by Blaise are sophisticated and refined. His prose is spare, made more so by the letter format of the narrative. There are sections for mature readers, integrally bound to the theme, but nonetheless explicit. The book is therefore recommended, for senior students of Canadian literature.

Joan VanSickle Heaton, Sydenham H. S., Sydenham, ON.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works