First British Commonwealth Edition, 1966
IN “How Much?” and in “The War of Camp Omongo,” Burt Blechman lashed out at the American‐Jewish milieu with more virulence than wisdom, and earned a reputation in excess of the merit of his first two novels. When so many writers of his rank go unnoticed, this young author has attracted attention by virtue of his uncompromising vision and savage rhetoric; his anger inspires respect even when his performance disappoints.
Blechman's new novel, “Stations,” marks a break with his earlier work. Another in the current flood of homosexual novels, it employs a surrealistic idiom, and its concern is with the landscape of the spirit rather than the topography of a society. (To be sure, the earlier novels can be seen as a kind of investigative prelude to this one.)
The metaphoric structure of “Stations” provides a clue to the author's intentions. The “stations” of the title are literally subway stations in which the protagonist tries to find erotic fulfillment, but they are also the stations of the cross in an elaborately sardonic religious allegory. Or is it really sardonic? For what we must confront here is a new phase in the portraiture of the homosexual who has been steadily upgraded from cripple to case history to hero. The homosexual, in short, has become normative, the symbol of our collective agony, Everyman in estremis. He represents the ultimate enshrinement of that stock figure of the past, the romantic rebel. This Satanic motif, a European export —Genet and Celine have been powerful influences—has lately achieved a real beachhead on our shores.
The protagonist of “Stations” is nameless but bears a number—901. There are other shadowy and patently allegorical figures in this universe of pain: theMadonna, 901's mother; the Mother Superior of his boarding house, a dim, forbidding nay‐sayer; and two figures on the world stage—Our Leader and The Hero, who are reach ing out for some great, shuddering, apocalyptic orgasm.
THE author makes a token effort to sketch the background of 901—the inevitable sexual catastrophes early in life—but while deviant novels in the past were more case‐histories than novels, this one is more tonepoem than novel. It celebrates a Communion of the Faithful who make their restless, unsatisfied way from subway station to subway station. In this tormented religious order, the latrine is the chapel “swarming with parishioners,” the disinfectant is the incense. The novel culminates in universal disaster—it is “death which is life's last black station.” A vice‐squad detective closes in on 901, while from above the Bomb makes its descent
“Stations” is an arresting but deeply uncertain work. Its tone, mediating as it does between bravado and disgust, frequently spins out of control, and its equation of homosexual anguish with the world's agony is obviously open to question. Yet there can be no denying the stinging vigor of Blechman's prose, or the intensities, of image and feeling that reverberate throughout the novel.
Donated by Larry Lingle - Lobo Books