BY PHOEBE ADAMS
BURT BLECHMAN, author of How Much, continues his attack on Jewish family life in THE WAR OF CAMP OMONGO (Random House, $3.95). Perhaps family life is not quite an accurate description of the target, and yet Randy would not be in residence at the ghastly outpost of Omongo if his parents had not thought the place a desirable extension of their normal milieu. Randy is a Nice Jewish Boy, aged, one gathers, about thirteen. He is to meet other Nice Jewish Boys and form connections. What he meets is a gaggle of little fools, brutes, and snobs, presided over by a mercenary neo-Nazi and his brainless drill sergeants, all but one of them Nice Jewish Men. With all due respect to the picturesque vigor of Mr. Blechman’s prose and the unmistakable seriousness of his purpose, we’ve had all this before. The group sadism, the furtive homosexuality, the lecherous wife of the headmaster, the abused artist, the dedicated military type whose real trouble is impotence, the dismal backwoods harlots, the cheating, whining, bullying boys — they are all familiar items. These qualities and characters have embellished a long series of books, fictional and factual, about boys’ schools, gangs, and camps, and making them Jewish doesn’t make them any the less stereotypes.
THE ARCHITECTURE OF FANTASY
(Praeger, $I6.00) involves such a bevy of authors and translators that it is a wonder any agreement was ever reached on the text. This survey of “Utopian building and planning in modern times” was written by Ulrich Conrads and Hans G. Sperlich, German specialists in art and architecture, and “translated, edited and expanded” by Christine Craseman Collins and George R. Collins, American art historians. It is a book for specialists and buffs in the outer, advanced fringes of architectural experiment, full of intricate plans and sketches of things never built, and photographs of a number of unusual structures that have actually been erected.
LOYS MASSON, normally an interesting author, has written a novel hardly up to his own standard in ADVOCATE OF THE ISLE (Knopf, $4.00). It is reminiscence by a dreary fellow whose career as a liberal and friend of the colored population of the island of Mauritius turns out to be entirely a matter of atonement for the death of a young cousin. The text, translated from the French by Antonia White, is rather too ornately emotional in style to suit this dust-dry narrator, and all the events and characters in the book have an air of contrivance, as though they had been concocted to take advantage of the currently fashionable themes of racial hostility and innocence betrayed.
THE SEX DIARY OF GERARD SORME
(Dial, $4.95) is a dismal illustration of the inadvertent cruelty of reviewers who cry “Genius!" on the strength of a first book. COLIN WILSON started with The Outsider, an unorthodox, peppery discussion of culture and the individual. The critical uproar over it was something that the young Tolstoi would have had to hump himself to live up to. Mr. Wilson is no Tolstoi, although his next book, a novel, was by no means without vigor and inventiveness. This second novel — the diary — has neither. It is simply an indulgence of the self-educated man’s traditional habit of reporting, at vast length, his recent discovery of some topic (sex, in this case) on which the rest of the world has been well informed all along.
STATE OF POSSESSION (Knopf, $4.50), by EDITH DE BORN, is a novel on the uncommon theme of unnoticed madness. Constructed with a deceptive appearance of artlessness, it describes a woman whose whole adult life is founded on a delusion and a crime. Because the crime and the delusion have enabled the woman to reconcile her private, daft view of the world with ordinary reality, she remains unsuspected — a solid, upright, reliable, rather dull citizen. It is Miss de Born’s intention to raise the questions, how many of one’s most level-headed associates are, at bottom, nutty as fruitcakes, and how much of the daily business of society is controlled by their undetected whimsies? She makes her point with chilling success until the final page, when, unfortunately, she loses either her nerve or her faith in the reader’s intelligence, and spells everything out like a Victorian moral versifier.