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The Life and Times of Captain N.

Although Glover gives us a novel about the "life and times" of various participants in the American Revolution, he knows that history is ghostly narrative, shifting juxtaposition. He moves from his narrative to one written by Oskar (the English youth turned rebel turned Indian). The novel is, indeed, a series of revolutions about the American Revolution. Oskar, for example, is "he" or "I" - the pronouns are repeatedly changed - and his instability reflects the instability of the various characters he encounters (or vice versa). The very concept of identity is challenged by the structure of the entire fiction.

The novel is filled with several voices: the chants of Indians; the barely literate words of Oskar - "dear Gen'l Washington, My Father beat us"; the careful narrative of Glover who whirls us in and out of Oskar's story. And these voices struggle for victory, for the last word.

History thus becomes a curious hybrid; it is continually mixed. We are not sure that any event is complete because we are informed that "we all use words to right the upset furniture of our lives, but the words and lives drift further and further apart. We live by the gesture [of writing?] yet all our motions are problematical." Before we can even comprehend the meaning of these sentences we are upset by these next sentence-paragraphs: "Woe! Woe! the singers sing. Hearken ye! We are diminished!"

On almost every page we have contradiction, absence and presence: "Everything has a face." Then we read: "Another name for Death is Without a Face." On another page: "They say I rave when I am traveling the hot wires that I speak in a jangle of languages, German, English, and the savage tongue - I know all kinds, and sometimes I feel it is the pressure of all those foreign words that bring on the pain. All those words and the effort to make things fit the words, things for which there are no words."

Perhaps the last sentence (written by Glover as Oskar) catches the whirlwind, the chaos of any creation: "I put these down as random Thoughts, in no particular Order, reflecting my State of Mind which is now chaotic and unformed as the Earth on the First Day."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Malin, Irving
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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