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146 the minnesota review Thorup sets the first chapter of Baby in the seedy Mexicana Club where most of the novel's characters are introduced. They engage in rambling conversations and alternately flirt with and demean one another: a type of interaction that structures the rest ofthe novel. In the ensuing chapters Baby foUows the individual Uves of several characters as they go their separate ways: a car salesman who becomes indebted to a loan shark is rejected by his wife (after she prostitutes herself to the loan shark) and winds up in a Men's Home; two young girls are sent to a reformatory when they murder a salesman from whom they have hitched a ride; a woman who translates pornographic novels aUows herself to be beaten by her ex-husband and eventuaUy takes up with a female impersonator; a pair of homosexual delinquents who get into a car accident while running away from their job and later spUt up when one of them discovers that he can make more money without the other; etc. Thorup has said that if she had to choose an epigraph for Baby, it would be Hugo's Une, "Not those who do dark deeds but those who create the darkness are the truly guilty ones. '' But she is overestimating her accomplishment. Much of the evil in the novel is traced to the melodramatic figure of Eddy, the loan shark and slum lord who victimizes nearly aU of the main characters. Eddy has a chapter devoted to him in the exact center of the book, thus lending the novel what form it possesses. Aside from presenting us with this almost motiveless malignant representative of the forces of darkness, Thorup sheds Uttle light on the characters' situations. Indeed, so intent is she on convincing us of their utter degradation that she seems willfully to intensify the darkness, piling gratuitous misery (Uke car accidents) upon sociaUy-determined misery. In this novel of social protest the characters finally seem to be as much the author's pawns as they are society's. The dreariness ofBaby's world is reflected in its flat prose style: '"David is a 20-year old child,' said Mark quixotically, and he leaned up against Leni and it was very warm. There was an electric fan in the ceiling and Suzie felt like dancing and at one time she had wanted to be a foreign-language secretary." So it goes, relentlessly, throughout the entire novel. Baby endows its characters with only the most rudimentary inner Uves and holds them to be utterly incapable of distinguishing great hopes from small ones, deep disappointments from petty frustrations. But, it could be argued, if everything matters equally, nothing matters urgently, and to my mind Baby ends up defeating its own purpose. In attempting to reveal the pathetic pUght of a certain class of people, Thorup too often shows the people themselves to be merely pathetic: which is sort of Uke throwing Baby out with the bathwater. TANIA MODLESKI Patrick Parrinder. Science Fiction: Its Criticism and Teaching, New Accents. London & New York: Methuen, 1980. Pp. xix + 166. $9.95 (cloth); $6.50 (paper). Mark Rose. Alien Encounters: Anatomy ofScience Fiction. Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press, 1981. Pp. 216. $12.95. Why did you lure us on Uke this, Light-year on light-year, through the abyss, Building (as though we cared for size!) Empires that cover galaxies, If at the journey's end we find The same old stuff we left behind. — C. S. Lewis Patrick Parrinder quotes the above well-known Unes of verse on p. 59 of his Science Fiction : Its Criticism and Teaching to criticize the "third rate" science fiction that merely blends a "superficial exoticism" with "almost total reassurance that the essentials of Ufe have remained constant." Unfortunately, Lewis's complaint appUes in too many ways to the books at hand, which promise a good deal more than they deliver and leave us with pretty much "the same old stuff we [hoped we'd] left behind." Both books are superficial; 147 reviews both are conventional. Both books assume the techniques of received Uterary criticism are ultimately adequate to the treatment of SF or...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 146-150
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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