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The story of Terry's past connection with Virginia, gradually revealed in the course of the novel, and that of his efforts to find a blood donor for her, are fraught with intrigue and daring coincidence. There's plenty of sex and passion and danger, all of which Nova, something of a romantic, seems to applaud as essential to human fulfillment . There's betrayal and adultery, and all the violence and tragedy that one would expect a Los Angeles ER physician to be witness to. There's also an ex-con/car thief/rapist with whom Terry develops a curious codependent relationship and has several serious heart-to-hearts. If the plot sometimes seems a bit too contrived, and the whole a touch too stylized, these are forgivable flaws in a book that manages to entertain so eloquently. Nova's mastery of his craft is impressive and the moral question he poses is an important one: how much do we owe to ourselves and how much to others ; and at what price does self-fulfillment become too costly? (ES) Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Letters: The Rows and Romances ofEngland 's Great Victorian Novelists by Daniel Pool HarperCollins, 1997, 282 pp., $25 As in his previous book about nineteenth-century British fiction, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (1993), Pool effectively transports his readers to another era, one that the reader will discover was only a little less media-driven than our own. While his last book engagingly explicated the cultural allusions in popular Victorian novels, Pool's new work offers gossipy tidbits about Victorian publishing, and about the lives of the authors themselves . Pool begins with the advent of the "new" Victorian novel, citing Charles Dickens as the founding father whose fiction marked the beginning of a new generation of novelists energized by changes in the publishing industry. Much of Pool's "gossip" about the personal lives of nineteenth-century writers is already well-known: Dickens' disastrous marriage that ended after his affair with the young actress , Ellen Teman; George Eliot's cohabitation with a married man; and Charlotte Bronte's unrequited love for her publisher, George Smith. More interesting is Pool's account of a publishing industry characterized by an increasingly "Hollywoodesque "attitudethat advocated celebrity gossip, the creation of public frenzy, and the manipulation of the literary market as acceptable techniques for inflating profits. Pool cites Henry Colburn, one of early nineteenth-century England's most prominent publishers , as the harbinger of hype, a man notorious for hiring people to dine in public and discuss his books, and even for creating news by having himself arrested for the purposes of publicity. Unfortunately, the book's poor organization and Pool's tendency to repeat anecdotes are annoying and ultimately interfere with overall continuity. However, aside from those flaws, and the outworn nature 226 ยท The Missouri Review of some of the material, Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Letters is an entertaining read for anyone interested in the book world of Victorian England. (AW) American Pastoral by Philip Roth Houghton Mifflin, 1997, 423 pp., $26 The prolific Roth shows that there is no such thing as a charmed life in this spectacular novel. "Swede" Levov, a blue-eyed, golden haired Jew and the greatest athlete in the history of Newark's Weequahic High, seems at first to have it aU. Like a movie idol, he is adored by men and women, young and old. On the court or field, his magical name inspires a personalized cheer: "Swede Levov! It rhymes with The Love." But when former childhood admirer Nathan Zuckerman (Roth's alter ego in several of his novels), is contacted by the Swede fifty years later for professional advice on writing a tribute for his deceased father, Zuckerman discovers that Levov's life is falling apart. The Swede's specialty women's glove company, Newark Maid, is in trouble; his marriage to "an up-and-coming Irish looker," Miss New Jersey 1949, Mary Dawn Dwyer, has ended in divorce ; and he battles prostate cancer, an illness Zuckerman himself is fighting. Sometime later, when he sees Jerry, the Swede's less adulated heart-surgeon brother...


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pp. 216-217
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