Cover image for The high traverse : a novel
The high traverse : a novel
Blanchard, Richard.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[Livingston, AL] : Livingston Press at the University of West Alabama, [2000]

Physical Description:
181 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm

Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This novel combines photographs, letters, images, and questions, questions, questions to mythologize our dying moment. Too, the reader is drawn by several mysteries: the elusive Miss Wright, a primary school teacher who fills the dying man's thoughts; the competition between two brothers; the role the father played in World War II-and not least, just who is dying? The father? A brother? Or some part of all three, and of the grandsons too? The juncture of sensuality and death is disarmingly achieved by the novel's seemingly grammar-school diction. Stunning photographs and evocative images of mountains underline the building myth associated with our final moments.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Blending childhood reminiscences with a WWII memoir and a chronicle of mental and physical slippage toward death, this strange work tries to sustain itself on its oddness and becomes merely frustrating when it fails. Blanchard has written a long series of non sequiturs, most possessing a na‹ve, nascent quality that hints at a darker subtext without ever laying claim to it: "The doctor says it's just a setback. I cast, but no bites. They serve senior coffee free down at the Burger King." A speaker named Richard progresses from childhood to old age within the span of relatively few pages, and this trajectory tenuously coheres. Throughout Richard's life, though, the author serves up too much to chew on. Blanchard likes to use sentences with similar numbers of syllables, and a metered rhythm, averaging seven beats per line. While the music is fascinating on first discovery, Blanchard eventually wears it out. Many of the nuanced observations unfurled here are nuggets of genuine experience straight from the quintessential American childhood, while others seem merely incidental. As the book progresses, a series of threads surface that give it structure in the manner of John Barth or David Markson, whose plots often catch the reader unaware. Passages of prose alternate with offbeat, moody photographs from various locations and eerie letters to a teacher named Mrs. Wright, on whom the speaker obviously has a crush. By the end of this odd work, if one has not been driven berserk by the ersatz diversions Blanchard offers, one realizes, upon reaching the acknowledgment of mortality that brings the document to an uplifting close, that the eccentric tediousness of the book does, indeed, move toward something bigger than the structure itself. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved