Clark Gifford's Body

Clark Gifford's Body

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by Robert Polito
     
 

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Back in Print After Fifty Years

Clark Gifford? A cipher. A disaffected, vaguely idealistic politician in a nameless media-driven modern state where representative politics has dwindled to the corrupt transaction of business as usual and a new foreign war is always breaking out. One night Gifford and his followers seize some radio stations and broadcast a

Overview

Back in Print After Fifty Years

Clark Gifford? A cipher. A disaffected, vaguely idealistic politician in a nameless media-driven modern state where representative politics has dwindled to the corrupt transaction of business as usual and a new foreign war is always breaking out. One night Gifford and his followers seize some radio stations and broadcast a call for freedom—a rebellion that is immediately put down by the government and whose motive will remain forever obscure. Even so, it leads to twenty years of war.

A paranoid tour de force of political noir, Clark Gifford’s Body skips back and forth in time, interspersing newspaper clippings and court transcripts with the reactions and reminiscences of the politicians, generals, businessmen, journalists, waiters, and soldiers who double as the actors and the chorus in a drama over which, finally, they have no control. Who here is leading? Who is being led? Fearing’s novel is a pseudo-documentary of a world given over to pseudo-politics and pseudo-events, a prophetic glimpse of the future as a poisonous fog.

“I have not developed the habit of reading thrillers, but I have read enough of them to know that from now on Mr. Fearing is my man.”–The New Yorker

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Kenneth Fearing:

“I have not developed the habit of reading thrillers, but I have read enough of them to know that from now on Mr. Fearing is my man.”–The New Yorker

“There are plenty of people currently writing variations on Fearing (possibly without being aware of it), but it’s tough to beat the stylish chill of the original.”–Poetry Magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590171820
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
10/17/2006
Series:
New York Review Books Classics Series
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,153,229
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

KENNETH FEARING (1902-1961) was born in Oak Park, Illinois. Voted wittiest boy and class pessimist in high school, he moved to New York City after graduating the University of Wisconsin. He published several well received volumes of poetry in addition to his novels, including Angel Arms, Dead Reckoning, and Stranger at Coney Island and other poems.

ROBERT POLITO is the author of Doubles, A Reader’s Guide to James Merrill’s The Changing Light at Sandover and Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson. He edited the Library of America volumes, Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 1940s and Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s, and directs the Graduate Writing Program at The New School. He lives in New York.

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Clark Gifford's Body 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As with Fearing's other recently re-issued NYRB novel, 'The Big Clock', this book is comprised of a series of statements by a disparate group of commentators. In this case, the central event is the attempted putsch against a 'Provisional Government' of an anonymous country, presumably in North America and likely the USA of the future. The rebellion was lead by 'Colonel' Clark Gifford representing the 'Committee for Action'. Exactly what the Committee's various objections to the Provisionals might be and what exactly this group has in mind for rectifying the problems isn't exactly specified, perhaps by intent. The paramilitary actions, in turn, set in motion retributive action by the state governor. Gifford and his confreres are captured and several are executed. There is one turncoat, aptly named 'Danton', whose name maladroitly invokes the Danton of the French Revolution. The French Danton was accused by Robespierre and St. Just of betraying the Revolution, as this Danton betrays the Committee's revolution. The heroic Gifford is eventually executed as was the French Danton, but Gifford's raid and subequent martyrdom provoke internal rebellion, adding to the Provisionals' headaches, as they already have at least one major war in progress. Interestingly, the Committee specifies it will prosecute the ongoing foreign war to a victorious conclusion. There are several subplots, e.g., a cabaret singer's quest for her long-lost son, who was left 'on the other side'. These become mere digressions and are only vaguely related to the central action, but serve to set the milieu. The book is characterized as 'political noir', but lacks just about all the characteristics that define this genre. Further, none of the characters are sufficiently developed for the reader to develop an understanding of their motives, much less to have any sympathy or empathy for them or their affairs. The greater theme, if there was one, escaped my notice. This book was particularly disappointing given the obvious and widely recognized talents of the author. Based on the title, one might assume Fearing intended Gifford as a symbolic John Brown character and the radio station raid as an analogue to the Harpers Ferry action. If so, the book fails, miserably. It lacks the sentience of Orwell or the miserable anonymity invoked by Kafka. It has none of the gripping insights into the totalitarian mindset provided by Koestler, Jan Valtin or Victor Serge. It is sterile, rather than stark and seems more like a work-in-progress, as opposed to a finished product by an experienced writer.