Picks and Pans Review: The Exile

updated 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by William Kotzwinkle

When Kotzwinkle is the author, readers can be sure only that the book in question will be different from everything else he has done. Kotzwinkle has written a dozen novels, and his work continues to be distinguished by its originality, wit and daring. The Exile takes two popular fictional genres, the Hollywood glitter scene and the Gestapo-hunted-hero caper, and weaves them together. David Caspian is an aging movie actor who would like to make a film of substance. Instead, his agent steers him into a big money sci-fi project that will protect his stardom. Meanwhile the coyotes howl in the canyon out behind Caspian's house, and he goes for nightly strolls into fantasies that take him to Nazi Germany. It is proof of Kotzwinkle's skills that some of this book's best scenes are played out between Caspian and his therapist, a Jungian who explains, "We refuse to accept our capacity for evil, and instead lay it on somebody else. But to become whole, we need both halves of our nature." Since this is also a suspense tale, the elaborate plot is eventually resolved—but not in any predictable way. Although Kotzwinkle's Hollywood is a comic satire, he is able to shift to the harsh violence of Nazi Germany and make the weird juxtapositions seem inevitable. As in other Kotzwinkle novels, black magic is involved—and the reader too falls under a strange spell. (Dutton/Lawrence, $17.95)

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