Picks and Pans Review: Waking the Dead

updated 06/09/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/09/1986 01:00AM

by Scott Spencer

Spencer has taken his obsession with romantic obsession about as far as he can. Those who were enthralled with the impassioned teenage protagonist of his novel Endless Love probably will be able to make it through this book, which could have been called Endless Love II. It's about Fielding Pierce, a 34-year-old man from a working-class Brooklyn family. By dint of his ambition, connections and luck, he becomes a candidate for a suddenly vacant congressional seat in the delegation from Illinois. What's really on his mind, though, is the haunting feeling that Sarah Williams, the activist-lover he thought was blown up in a car bombing involving Chilean political figures five years before, may be alive. Even those who are willing to believe that an occasional borderline loony makes it into congressional politics may find it hard to accept Spencer's plot. At one point, Pierce bolts from a crucial interview with two reporters to go chasing a woman he just glimpsed walking by and thought might be Sarah. Spencer's writing, while it is energetic and sometimes funny, is laden with perhaps 11,000 percent more similes and metaphors than it needs. In the space of little more than a page, he writes about pride beating within someone's chest "like a swan flapping on a lake," steam coming out of someone's nostrils "like a ghostly scarf," a voice "swinging like an acrobat between the rings of love and impatience," devotion shining "as bright as a flame behind a curtain" and Pierce's nerves settling down "like a room that's been exploded and then comes back together." This novel is indeed overwrought and overwritten, like an adolescent puppy lover who never just comes to the front door when he can climb a trellis instead. (Knopf, $17.95)

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