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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

WHITE APPLES
By Jonathan Carroll
Tor/ 304 pages/ $24.95
ISBN: 0-765-30388-4

Magical, meaningful, and marvelously wrought by a writer whose work defies categorization, WHITE APPLES combines a breathtakingly poignant love story with a mystical quest.

Vincent Ettrich, a character delineated in two earlier Carroll stories, is a charming cad. He is "defined by the amount of women he had known and sometimes loved in his life." His philandering is not so much a moral failing as a fulfillment of his fundamental being. He's also, much to his surprise, dead. Or rather he was dead. He has no recollection of his death or idea of why he has been recalled to life -- especially life essentially as it always had been.

Book Cover After being brought to the realization of his condition, primarily by Coco Hallis -- who he thinks of as his most recent lover but who is considerably more -- he is reunited with his great love, Isabelle Neuker. "Three quarters perfection, one quarter broken glassŠhe would have walked barefoot back and forth on that glass, he would have eaten it if he could have her." She's the one woman he could be content with, but she had fled from him over and over. Isabelle is also the person who has brought him back from the dead aided by their unborn son, Anjo. Anjo who speaks to her, protects her, and needs Vincent as a father. He must learn things only Vincent can teach him -- and the future entire cosmos depends on Anjo's future role.

As with last year's THE WOODEN SEA, Carroll again abandons the leisurely pace he once took in his novels. He peoples a realistic stage with believable characters then immediately warps everything into surrealism to consider life, love, death, and God. One of Carroll's great gifts his ability to create what Hugo Ball called, in reference to Hermann Hesse the "'magic theater' of the panoramas of the soul that he conjures up before the eyes and ears of the world." Within this theatre he creates a world you never knew existed, yet, once glimpsed, you know is both true and disturbing. Within this new-found truth lies considerable darkness. Death wants Vincent back and Death, we learn, "is very stupid but very determined." But this is not as terrifying as other horrors Vincent faces: the dangerous and hard fact of his resurrection, a complete erasure of his love for Isabelle, a meeting in a Stygian elevator with what may be his dead self, a bloody encounter with chaos at a zoo that will etch itself on your brain forever, the inevitability of his and Isabelle's failure.

Carroll also pulls off something that has been put forth as a reason that his work has yet to break out of the literary-cult category in the U.S.: providing a climax that offers "reader satisfaction." Although he leaves some ends untied and details dangling, he does provide a gratifying finish. With any luck, this may push Carroll out of the cult ghetto and into wider readership where he belongs.

Carroll astonishes and amazes with WHITE APPLES. As the mature work of a mature writer, its depth and significance may not be completely apparent to those too inexperienced or too young to fathom it. But one can hope that its constant sense of wonder and juxtaposition of humor and pathos will be enough to enchant them as well. (Oct. 2002) -- Paula Guran (Cemetery Dance #41)

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.