Peri Bathous

From front cover to back, the total "package" of George Garrett's new novel, Poison Pen, is a shuck and a con. No fictional work in recent memory is so elaborate a satire, and a reader would have to go back to the 18th-century Augustans to find its equal. To begin with, the jacket's slick black stock and white lettering recall the cover of William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Readers may make what they can of that before turning to the blurbs on the jacket's back, endorsements by such worthies as the Bash Brothers (Dick and Bob), the pornographer Henry Sutton (who invokes comparisons with Lucilius, Persius, Juvenal, Galba, and Gaius Carbo), somebody named Sean Siobhan, and somebody else named Murray Westinghouse, who drags in Wittgenstein and Chung Tzu ("How delightful to be able to talk with a man who has forgotten the words!"). Even the New York Times seems to have gotten into the act: Poison Pen was recently reviewed there by one "Harvey Pekar," the author of a series of adult comic books.

But we haven't yet cracked the spine of the novel, there to discover that even the ungrammatical liner notes are a send-up of language fallen on evil days, and the photo of author Garrett in mortarboard and academic robe, leaning on a poster of Christie Brinkley, seems to be making a mockery of the fact that Princeton University finally...

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