|LOST IN THE FAST LANE
The shattered values of our modern world, as viewed by an innocent
David Lehners new novel, Eclipse, is a fierce satire of modern morality, manners, and scholarship. The plot loosely follows the Satyricon, which some consider to be the very first novel. Both books open with parodies of literary criticism and move on to a series of sybaritic parties and episodes of debauchery and sexual obsession.
In an ironic homage to Henry Fielding, Lehner has named his innocent hero Tom Jones, and has given Jones a quest: to find and rescue his beloved Sophia Weston; but these characters are a far cry from Fieldings similarly named twosome: his Tom Jones is straight-laced, utterly lost, and dismayed, and this Sophia may not want or even deserve rescuing. Lehner also gives the novel two walk-on wenches, Pamela and Clarissa, who owe their names to Samuel Richardson.
Literary allusions aside, Eclipse has a fast-paced plot of its own, as the innocent Tom is led farther and farther astray by his charismatic and speedy tempter, Alex, a thief and imposter for whom truth has no value. It is remarkable that Tom holds out as long as he does against Alexs temptations of theft, promiscuity, swindling and falsehood. When Tom says to Alex, My father told me a businessman can never tell a lie, Alex replies, Well, kid, I hate to tell you this, but its just not like that anymore.
David Lehner says of his new novel, One conflict is that between the old and the new. Today we are being aggressively sold a brave new world, but is it kinder, smarter, more humane, more dignified, freer and more tolerant than the old one? Tom Joness experience suggests that it is not.
Readers of this book will include those who know and care about contemporary scholarship and culture and are sensitive to its decline; those who dont know what is happening in our universities but may enjoy the satire all the same; and readers who will think the world described in the book is a complete fantasy. I want this book to awaken or sharpen the readers sense of what is happening to our culture, what has been lost, and what (dim) hopes there are for its future.
Whatever group the reader falls into, that reader will find Eclipse a compelling book. The dialogue is crisp, the pell-mell plot is fast like falling dominoes, and the characters are dynamic and well drawn, page after page.
David Lehner was educated at Hobart College and received a Ph.D. from City University of New York. He is the author of Bright Day and Unwelcome Light.
by David Lehner
128 pages, paperback, $12.95
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