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Gurr, David.

Toronto. McClelland & Stewart, 1987. 739pp. cloth, $29.95, ISBN 0-7710-3666-3. CIP

Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Volume 16 Number 1
1988 January

One of the embattled characters of The Ring Master, surveying the utterly degraded society of which he is a member, has his own explanation of the underlying cause of the moral disintegration he beholds, an explanation to which author Gurr devotes some 700 pages of exposition: "Without Wagner, I honestly believe none of this would have happened. People say it's Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, but they're nothing, no one reads a word—it's the damnable music." And what is "this"? Nothing less than the Nazi regime with all its horrors and madness.

The giant-size volume with its monstrous content links Richard Wagner's celebrated Ring cycle and its godlike heroes and heroines first to the career of the horrible, crazed Ring Master himself, who dreamed of world domination and came all too close to his goal; second, to his perverse relationship with his mistress Edwina Casson-Perceval, star of Wagnerian opera; and third, to her incestuous lifelong affair with her brother Edwin, a blackmailed spy for the Allies, and the father of his sister's child. (Edwin's other passion in life, appropriately enough given his surname, is a frenzied search for tiie Holy Grail, in which he employs slave labour recruited from the local concentration camps.) It is all enormously complex, allusive and difficult. The close and minutely detailed examination of the most depraved, gross and unnatural activities of a particularly unpleasant time, place and cast of characters strongly suggests that this is a title unsuitable for any school collection and is best reserved for the exclusive use of a sophisticated and unimpressionable adult audience.

Joan McGrath,Toronto Board of Education, Toronto, Ont.
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