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76 Western American Literature The plotting is complicated and conventional, with the separated lovers, the rich, evil mastermind, the legendary giant, and the timely arrival of the troops. Indeed, Baker seems to enjoy working within the boundaries of the established form. At the same time, he pushes against the traditional leanings of the genre; rather than invoke the broadly-shared values of the mass reader, he questions the merits of progress, civilization, science, and leisured theory. This novel is fun to read, and it has honest implications. Throughout the narrative, the writing is crisp and the historical material is gracefully incorporated. This is a smoothly written piece of historical fiction, but it is not likely to be followed by anotherjust like it. Having succeeded, Will Baker has moved on to his next challenge. He will probably continue to be an interesting writer to follow. JOHN D. NESBITT Eastern Wyoming College Bones. By Franklin Fisher (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1990. 245 pages, $17.95.) Bones is an outrageously funny, elegantly crafted first novel by Franklin Fisher, an associate professor of English at the University of Utah. Fisher blends a keen comic sense with a lyrical intensity that is unique, to say the least. “To keep from thinking about the erection he had started to get when Alice clutched his wrist in the swimming pool, he considered how you might portray the act of translating the Book of Mormon without making it look funny.”The protagonist with this rather unusual problem is Lorin Hood, a visual artist who has left his bohemian days in California for Ypsilanti, Michigan to fulfill his twoyear mission obligation for the Mormon church. He assists in an exorcism, feeling “fraudulent about being there,” like a “corroded battery that had [somehow] passed inspection. For all he knew, his endowment ceremony in the temple hadn’t taken because he’d lied to the bishop about his sex life, and if the demon didn’t come out of Sister Heinmiller it would be his fault.”He comes to believe that the demon not only exited Mrs. Heinmiller, but by some electrical circuitry of touch, raced up his own arm and entered his own body, where it causes all sorts of mischief, not the least of which is his rather awkward seduction of a recent convert he had been proselytizing. He is immediately excommunicated, and makes his way back to California where he has a near breakdown. It should be clear by now that this protagonist leads an extraordinary life. Demons, angels, persons dead a hundred years exist in a fluid universe of dreams, fantasies and visions, and who is to tell which is which? In dramatic, breathless segues, Fisher moves his protagonist from one layer of reality to another in wonderfullv accomnlished iuxtanositions where the surreal and the Reviews 77 mundane exist edge on edge. Through all of this Fisher achieves, along with the humor, a genuine pathos. Lorin is a protagonist difficult to like. He is an outsider everywhere he goes, an unattractive, cumbrous individual who finds himself perpetually on the outside looking in, for whom the rite of excommunication is a brilliantly apt metaphor. And it is to Fisher’s credit that the portrait has such integrity, for Lorin’s awkwardness never becomes endearing or charming, but remains awk­ ward to the end, as Fisher spares him no indignity. Cursed with a sense of dividedness which dogs him throughout the novel, Lorin begins at last to achieve an integration of his various selves—spiritual, sexual, artistic, through a transformed creative process. He makes tentative peace with his demons both literal and metaphoric, and becomes, finally, an artist who learns to work not out of bitterness or rage, but out ofjoy. Along the way, Fisher gives us a riotous, yet haunting portrait of Mormon culture, with all its grand and deadly secrets, in description which is almost always sensuous, vibrant and wonderfully motivated, and rarely self-indulgent, with the exception of a couple of very long visionary sequences—minor excep­ tions to a fine first novel. ANN L. PUTNAM University ofPuget Sound Kelly Blue. By Peter Bowen. (New York: Crown, 1991. 268 pages, $19.00.) Kelly...


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pp. 76-77
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