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April 11, 1986 - Image 13

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-04-11
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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BOOKS

a .0 s

! !VVVV

w w w

Mysteries in both music and meaning,

CATCH OF THE DAY
CRISPing, writing, perceptions, an

The Unseen Hand and Other
Plays
by Sam Shepard
$7.95, 352 pages
Bantam Books
Actor/playwright Sam Shepard has
written more than forty plays. The
Unseen Hand and Other Plays is a
collection of his early works, written
about twenty years ago. In the in-
troduction, Shepard says that now,
looking back on these plays he
realizes he was lerning how to write,
beaking the ice with himself. This is
obvious to the reader if one follows the
plays in chronological order.
Shepard's progress as a writer is
traceable.
The plays are reactionary to the life
and politics of the '60s and early '70s.
Shepard introduces them by saying,
"Today, I don't see how these plays
make any real sense unless they're
put into perspective with that time."
He is quite right - they often don't
make sense. However, there is one

universal quality about all of the
plays: the theme of difficulty in com-
municating.
Whether it is the 19th century
outlaws in the 20th century America
of The Unseen Hand, or the convict
in The Killer's Head, all of them
painfully try to convey "what's going
on." The point condenses in The
Rock Garden when the alternate
characters repeatedly ask "You
know?" But they don't know and
neither does the audience and the
urgency of the dilemma is painful.
The characters are phantom snap-
shots of people one might have known,
if one could get a better look at them.
They do not invoke pity or passion,
rather they provoke thought. In "The
Unseen Hand," Blue, an old outlaw,
gives his view of contemporary life:
"Used to be, a man would have hisself a
misunderstanding and go out and set-
tle it with a six-gun. Now it's all silent,
secret. Everything moves like a
fever. Don't know when they'll cut ya'
down and when they do ya' don't know
who done it." Shepard buffs it with
Willie's (the space freak) explanation
of his world: "Whenever our thoughts

transcend those of the magicians the
Hand squeezes down and forces our
minds to contract into non-
preoccupation ... Living death." The
two unlikely worlds seem bound by
sobering likeness, both are a form of
living death.
Beyond the technique of creating
somehow surreal characters to
provoke thought, Shepard rides on the
dialogue. Sometimes flamboyant,
more often abstract, the words mean
nothing and everything. When The
Man in The Rock Garden talks about
making a rock garden one realizes he
isn't talking about just a rock garden.
He's trying to reach something he's
unsure of: a life observation and
communication with The Boy.
This technique doesn't hide
Shepard's flaws, however. There are
several incongruencies one can't help
but notice. In The Unseen Hand,
Cisco, who is supposed to be
telepathic, asks for a definition of
"rocket" and later spontaneously
breaks into the song "Rock Around
the Clock." One wonders how a 19th
century telepathic outlaw transported
into the 20th century can know all the

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words to "Rock Around the Clock."
There are other problems too, like a
drastic, unexplainable change in the
characters of Kid and Sycamore that
isn't really explained in the play. In
virtually a single line of dialogue they
become totally different. One might
be able to account for Kid, but
Sycamore? C'mon Sam! That's stret-
ching things.
By the time Shepard arrives at 1975
with Killer's Head, one sees
definite improvement. In this one
scene, one character play, he finds
and traps an abstract emotion in the
reader. Is one to be sympathetic or
bewildered or.. .? Why does a man in
an electric chair, talking about horses
and pick-up trucks stir whatever that
emotion is.?
Overall, one can applaud Shepard
for releasing this collection of
"disposable plays." Not every
playwright is brave enough to let
trash out of the basket. Yes, while the
collection has no merit besides
chronicling the progress of Shepard,
there are a few plays with outstanding
features that make the read almost
worth while.
- Gloria Sanak
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe in
Murder in E Minor
BY Robert Goldsborough
$13.95, hardcover, 196 pages
Bantam Books
Nero Wolfe is back. NERO WOLFE
is back! NERO WOLFE IS BACK!!!
Nero Wolfe for those unfortunate
people who are unfamiliar with him)
is a genius, a 286-pound gourmet, an
orchid-lover, and the most eccentric
and successful private detective in the
world. Wolfe is assisted by his con-
fidential secretary, leg-man, chauf-
feur, and gadfly and biographer-Ar-
chie Goodwin.
Over a 41-year period, novelist Rex
Stout wrote 33 novels and 39 novellas
starring this world-famous detective.
The last beingpublished in 1975. Rex
Stout died soon thereafter and his
many fans have missed Nero Wolfe
ever since. Now, though, Nero Wolfe,
has returned in this new adventure,
writting by Robert Goldsborough, a
long-time fan and recognized expert
on Nero Wolfe.
The plot of Murder in E Minor cen-
ters around the murder of Milan
Stevans, conductor of the New York
Symphony. Wolfe is drawn into in-
vestigating the murder when he is
hired by Maria Radovich (Stevans
grand-niece) to discover who was
sending threatening letters to
Stevans, prior to his death.
Maria's fiancee, Gerald Miller, is
charged with the murder, but Wolfe

decides he is innocent and sets out to
prove who is the guilty party.
This novel follows the familiar .pat-
tern of all Nero Wolfe stories. Wolfe
sits and thinks and gives orders that
Archie runs around trying to carry
out. The denouement is, as ususal, in
Wolfe's office with the suspects
assembled and the police on hand to
arrest the villian as soon as Wolfe has
revealed his identity.
The mystery is as complex as any
written by Stout, the clues being well-
buried and, at one point, requiring a
working knowledge of German. In ad-
dition, the ancillary characters that
appeared in previous Nero Wolfe
novels are well-represented and
well-handled in this book.
The reader is reacquainted with
Fritz Brenner, the cook; Nathaniel
Horstmann, Wolfe's gardener; In-
specter Cramer and Sergeant Steb-
bins of the New York City Police
Department: Paul Panzer and Fred
Durking; Wolfe's lawyer, Nathanial
Parker; Archie's newspaper contact,
Lou Cohen; and Archie's girlfriend,
Lily Rowan.
Murder in E Minor is a complete
success and pure joy to read for Nero
Wolfe fans. Goldsborough has
recreated the essential elements of a
Nero Wolfe novel, which is to say he
has recreated the living, breathing
characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie
Goodwin in such a way that readers
familiar with Rex Stout's writing
style would not be able to tell that he
hadn't written this book.
In fact, not only was he confident
enough of his knowledge of those in
Wolfe's world to write about them in
this book but he reached into Wolfe's
mostly unknown past to create two
fascinating new characters.
The only possible discrepancy of
this book from the rest of the Nero
Wolfe books occurs early on. Archie
identifies Wolfe from a photograph
taken long ago in Yugoslavia when
Wolfe was younger and much thinner
than he is now. But in the novel "In
the Best Families" Archie did not
recognize a thinner, bearded Nero
Wolfe until Wolfe revealed his identity
to him. However, this discrepancy in
no way detracts from enjoyment of
the book.
So real are Nero Wolfe and Archie
Goodwin to their fans that some have
said that Rex Stout merely functioned
as the literary agent for Archie
Goodwin. All Nero Wolfe fans can on-
ce again rejoice; for Robert Gold-
sborough has written an authentic,
enjoyable mystery novel in the best
tradition of Rex Stout.
-By Mickey Brumm

W E ALL HAVE to choose our fall
courses this week. Some of my
friends think I am neurotic because I
make such a production out of it. All I
talk about during CRISP is what I
should take. I do that because there's
so mch to learn that I can't decide
what's most important.
I'll be a senior next year. It will be
my last year with all these resources,
and all this time to devote to learning.
Of course, I didn't realize what the hell
I had here until now. Three years are
virtually gone and I can't get them
back. I did so much bitching - I got
mad at the work, and I swore at my
books, and I lost a lot of learning. You
could be an optimist and say "Well,
look at it this way, you're learning
from your mistakes." I still wish I
could have some of that time back.
W RITING a weekly column has been
my excuse to stop living. When
anybody asks me to do something -
go to a movie or a lecture - I say,
."I have a column due Thursday."
This column has been my excuse for
not growing. I sat in front of the
typewriter for hours without
depressing a single key because I
couldn't think of anything to write
about. I sat there in a writers block
because I was not listening to anyone.
I heard the words, and, if I was asked
to, I could have repeated them - but
I wasn't listening.
It is very hard to grow when
you always have something else to do.
Routines make it hard for you to
grow, to listen, and to learn. My
routine is the "I have lots of school
work and a column due Thursday"
routine. My life this past year has
been wrapped around that sentence.
Just now, I refused to go to my first
opera because of that sentence. But
it's a lot more than not going to the
opera. I've told my friends, "what I've
been up to," and how busy I've been,
but I haven't told them how I really
feel, and if they cared enough to tell
me how they feel, I didn't listen. And I
haven't tried to meet any new people
because "I won't have any time to
spend with them anyway."
I allowed the column to keep me
from growing, but it could have been
something else like a tough class
schedule or applying for internships.
You don't just say, "I'm going to grow
this year." To grow you have to take
risks, and maybe make a fool out of
yourself, because you're no longer in
your own little room, where
everything stays the same and nobody
can see you make mistakes. Next

year, unless I decide that I'm willing
to make myself vulnerable, I will
have a brand new routine.
W HY DON'T YOU look at us?"
my friend Steve shouted, half-
indignant and half-confused because
everyone in the tour group was
looking straight at the Alumni
Building. The tour group was made
up of high school seniors and their
parents, and by looking at various
buildings they were getting "a feel"
for the University. The college
students who walked by weren't part
of the tour, and were thus of no in-
terest to anyone in the group. Of
course, there were pressing questions
to ask about the size of the Alumni
Building.
Steve repeated his question, this
time shaking his head. Finally they
all turned. Steve wasn't the
tourguide. And he certainly wasn't a
building. This was a very strange in-
terruption.
"See all these people," Steve said
pointing to students as they walked
along, "we're students." "Look at
me," he said, smiling. "Your kid
could look like this in four years. See
my long hair? And I used to be so
clean-cut.
"Have you shown them the long-
haired freaks and the people
scavenging for garbage yet?" he
asked the tourguide, who was still
talking about the Alumni Building.
"Take a good long look at your
daughter. Three years form now she
might look the same, but you may not
even know who she is. Why don't you
start looking at who you're dropping
her off with?"
They stared at the kid who had in-
terrupted the tour, and then they all
looked back at the Alumni Building,
which was completed in 1981. That's
what the tourguide said.
T HE LAST THING I want to talk
about is love. Stay with me now, I
know this isn't easy. I was on the
phone with my father today and at the
very end of the conversation I said
"I love you."
Maybe now you're thinking about
that soppy ad for AT&T where the
woman exclaims through her tears
that "he just called to say I love you,
Mom." I don't do that sort of thing. I
have a hard enough time just writing
the words, "I love you" at the end of a let-
ter to my parents.
Every time I go home on vacation, I
plan to tell my father that I love him,
but I never do. After a few failure, I
thought how great it would be if Dad
and I could get drunk together and
have one of those "remember it for a

lifetime conversations." Then maybe
the words would come out of my
mouth. What ended up happening is
that we went out for a walk - his idea,
not mine. We never do that.
My father is one of those people who
believes in a pratical education. The
kind of education that gets you a job.
And there I was, an English major
whose main interest was creative
writing.
I thought on this walk that Dad
might give me the same old speech
about "geting all the right tickets" so
that I could get a good job, and how I
should be practical in my course
choice. Instead he put his arm around
me and said, "Mike, I'm really not
worried about you. I don't think it
matters what you do. You're going to
do all right." Then he told me that he
loved me, but not in the way he might
at then end of a phone conversation,
as sort of a routine way to end things.
It wasn't one of those simple "I love
you's" that you just say. He had to
work up to it. And then I looked right

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up at him, and didn't say anything. The
words were screaming in my mind
but I trapped them in my mouth
before they could get out. We walked
the rest of the way in silence.
When I called my father, I wasn't
thinking about saying "I love you" or
planning out when I would say it. The
words were there. They were already;
out before I could stop myself.
When I hung up the phone I had this
huge smile on my face; as I told my
roommate what I had just done, I was
jumping around, and I shook him and
shouted "I did it." Twenty years and
I finally did it. Not on a birthday card,
but in words, with my own voice. And
it came out so goddamned easy it
almost makes me want to cry (that's
another thing I don't do) for waiting
all these years.
Now maybe when I go home for
summer vacation I'll tell him that I
love him right in front of him. I'll
walk up to him and...well, forget
plans. Maybe it will just creep out

P

again
tence,
This o
Best o
Mike
schoo

to backpack
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761-6207

8 Weekend-April 11, 1986

-- -W

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