Picks and Pans Review: The Flower of the Republic
by Raymond Kennedy
The main character is a former professor, a bum now, a long-winded old man who tells incredible tales out of his past, using a dizzying variety of classical and other learned allusions. His chatter spellbinds women. After a crude and fat virgin takes him to her mountain retreat, where she drinks and smokes a clay pipe, he is captured by a wealthy old woman whose young husband is a wild profligate. At one point in this novel a character says of the professor, "The man doesn't make a lick of sense, if you ask me," and a reader may be tempted to agree. But, like some of Donald Barthelme's fictional worlds, Kennedy creates extravagant characters and settings with such outlandish vigor and originality that they do exist, if only magically on these printed pages. This is a very funny book, too, but throughout there are little slivers of truth about life, art, sex and human nature that can set off remarkable echoes in anyone who is haunted by memories that have swollen into bigger-than-life tales. If The Flower of the Republic doesn't make much sense in conventional ways, the outrageous language alone is enough reason for reading it. (Knopf, $11.95)
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