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Tornado Pratt.

Once the reader gets past our hero's logorrhea (deliberate, one assumes, on the author's part in order to create a nonstop deathbed monologue to rival any other in recent memory; Robert Browning's Bishop, ordering his tomb from his deathbed, gives us a postcard to eternity by comparison), his character unfolds not in any logical or chronological order, but rather as a dialectic diatribe, the fits and starts of a septuagenarian trying to make peace with the Universe or the Oversoul, or the President of the Immortals, or even the God of his Baptist forebears back in Kansas where he got his name: on the day he was born a tornado ripped off the roof of the local church. Tornado, figuratively picking lint" from the bedclothes, gives us one long, yet-to-be-edited collection of facts and fantasies directed to Horace, if that's his name, who may or may not be his son, and who is directed to publish them in "a magnificent biography which [will be] one of the most magnificent studies ever made of an old-style American capitaloon." Pratt, in a kind of Pratt's Last Tape, wanders over the landscape of his life as well as much of the globe itself. He is, in his own words, a phenomenon: "Goddamn it, I could have been in Rome or fucking Siam, or anywhere and anywhere I went they'd have clustered round beaming and saluting, because - goddamn it, I'm Tornado Pratt! Do you hear me? I'm the selfmade fucking eighth wonder of the world." Why does he say this, in his own not-so-quiet way? Probably because for 223 pages he dumps on us the combined exploits of Howard Hughes, William R. Hearst, Falstaff, Henderson the Rain King, Saint Augustine, Rambo, Cecil Rhodes, Don Juan, and a number of other larger-than-life characters from both history and fiction. Examples of his great accomplishments: financial genius, lover of dozens of women, military hero (a marine in both wars, a colonel with five machine-gun bullets in his guts, and holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor, he refused to be made a general so as not to have to leave his men in the field!), novelist, etc. However, there is an obvious caveat for the reader to consider in this witty and verbose tour de force, which satirizes so many serious biographies and especially autobiographies: Pratt, as he prattles on, doesn't know where he is and isn't always sure of his facts (Manila? Acapulco? a hospital bed? "Horace am I stretched out on the floor?"). "That wasn't how I met Austin Turner. Then how did I meet him? What the hell does it matter? If I say that's how I met him, then that's how it was. Who can contradict me? ... It's just words." Certainly not this reader! So much for all autobiographies! [Jack Byrne]
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Byrne, Jack
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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