Picks and Pans Review: Krippendorf's Tribe

updated 02/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Frank Parkin

The hero of this wild and raunchy comic novel is an anthropologist who has lost his college teaching job in North London and stays at home to look after his three children. (Most of the time his wife is off in the world's trouble spots making TV documentaries.) Krippendorf obtains a grant to study an Amazon tribe called the Shelmikedmu, but he doesn't go there to do his research: He just makes up their behavior patterns, inspired occasionally by his children, who are the most destructive and fearful trio ever dreamed up by a writer. In Krippendorf's imagined tribe, sex roles are reversed. The women hunt and carry on warfare; the men clean the huts and cook—pretty much like Krippendorf's own home life. When a magazine editor asks Krippendorf to contribute photographs of this tribe, the ingenious anthropologist doesn't blink an eye. He paints his sons with makeup, talks a Filipino woman into posing and later finds an Ethiopian baby-sitter to provide some of the more bizarre illustrations for his text. The author, a tutor and fellow at Oxford, has written four books on political science. In his first work of fiction he goes a bit too far on occasion (the cannibalism is gross), but his cockeyed view of some especially daft corners of our life and times is original, exceptionally well realized—and funny. (Atheneum, $13.95)

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