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the youngest daughter amasses a collection of malaria piUs behind her bed instead of taking them. One of the girls is going to die, we learn early on, but it takes her forever to do so. In the long interval before the tragedy, the Prices engage in innumerable misunderstandings with the villagers, involving such issues as baptism, the rainy season, the care of chickens, courtship rituals, and gardening , among others. Kingsolver's previous novels showed an exquisite feeling for family ¦ (both natural and adoptive), a wry sense of humor, and a combatively liberal political perspective. In this novel, however, that last trait is her undoing. Nathan Price, a hidebound fundamentalist (and therefore highly susceptible to stereotyping), is a character as flat as recycled cardboard; onlythewomeninthe family change. Kingsolver's Congolese villagers all have a childlike dignity, whereas most of the whites (other than the Price women) are pictures of covert or overt malice. This is not to say that the novel is without redeeming features. If you can forgive the. political shrillness, you will find The Poisonwood Bible a marvelous rendition of another time and place—a place very difficult to render because it is so isolated from modern civilization, and so fragile. OS) Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto The Dial Press, 1998, 224 pp., $22.95 Kuusisto's memoir records a personal journey from pathology to peace, beginning with an etiological description of his blindness (retinopathy of prematurity) and moving to an account of a childhood spent sharpening a sixth sense that "fostered the impression in my parents and everyone else that I could see far better than I really could." Because of the stigma attached to blindness, Kuusisto's parents enrolled him in a public school that provided no education in reading braille or using a cane. Kuusisto spent his childhood cultivating his small window of vision, deciding that he would be dimly sighted and normal. The memoir circles around his sense of loss, not so much of the sense of sight as ofa life, so much ofhis having been spent resisting blindness. From a tired kid who used all his energies to cope grew a Fulbright scholar and talented poet. In a visit to the Prado in his early adulthood, Kuusisto was thwarted by guards and ropes that blocked his attempts to press close to the paintings in order to glimpse them. He notes, "Ofcourse, I should be carrying a white cane. But of course, I'm carrying nothing but my sense of not-quite-belonging, which I'm fighting like a man swatting hornets." Even so, Kuusisto persists in finding the humor and irony in his struggles. Arguing with a professor who insists that he has no business taking an English literature seminar, Kuusisto counters, "And I suppose Milton, Homer, James Joyce, they couldn't have taken a course in this department either?" Kuusisto uses his poetic skills to evoke the particularities ofhis world. Certain moments are unforgettable, almost unnerving, such as his description of a bird-watching trip when, rather than interrupt a sighted friend's The Missouri Review · 191 raptures, he pretends he sees through the binoculars: "I am looking into the blue dish of self. My field glasses are trained on my own optic nerves." There are moments, however, when the writing seems overedited, straining for a lyrical line that becomes a stilted non sequitur. Kuusisto's crisis, the climactic point of the memoir, comes when he is in a doctoral program and accidentally slices open his reading eye with a sharp bookmark. At this point he decides to stop fighting his blindness and get a guide dog. From here on the memoir is divided equally between expressions of relief and gratitude and explanations of a guide dog's working relationship with a blind person. In the end, to read Kuusisto's book is to imagine a planet of the blind, where no one needs to be cured. (KH) Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe HarperFlamingo, 1998, 202pp., $22 In McCabe's latest offering you'll find plenty of the transgressive and the gruesome, two qualities shared with his brilliant and utterly horrifying 1993 novel, The Butcher Boy. Both books were...


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