Picks and Pans Review: The Red Truck

updated 08/31/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/31/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Rudy Wilson

In this unsettling first novel, a strange, erotic odyssey winds through a series of small Southern towns in the 1950s. As it begins, Billy-Billy Jump and his brother are accidentally trapped inside an abandoned icebox-turned-plaything. His brother dies, but Billy-Billy survives to become a quiet, self-absorbed youngster. For solace, Billy-Billy turns to his only friend, an imaginary little girl. Eventually he and a girl named Teddianne—the very incarnation of his imaginary playmate—become lovers. Together this curious couple (Teddianne believes Christ looks like a red truck) take turns telling a single disorienting story whose climax will inspire spasms of surprise. Much of the novel, told in lyrical, metaphoric prose, is filtered through the characters' memories and visions. For instance, Teddianne's adventures are at one point described thus: "Rolling through the tunnel lined with time, she moved toward a pinpoint of light. The point had red in it, then brighter, then something popped—the point was no longer a point but a place." For many readers, such language will suggest a modernization of Poe's dark psychological tales. To others, the novel's images of death and rebirth will make it seem more like a religious fable. In either case, it is an impressive writing debut. (Knopf, $15.95)

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