Exiles: Three Short Novelsby Philip Caputo
First to suburban Connecticut, where a young blue-collar man on the way to his mother's funeral falls in with an
With Exiles, his first collection of shorter fiction, the author of the universally acclaimed, best-selling memoir A Rumor of War ("It will make the strongest among us weep", wrote John Gregory Dunne) sends the reader on a tripartite adventure.
First to suburban Connecticut, where a young blue-collar man on the way to his mother's funeral falls in with an upper-crust couple who lavish attention on him and pull him into unexpected dilemmas.
Then to Australia's Torres Strait, where a charismatic but troublesome stranger washes ashore into the thick of a struggle for a tiny island's very identity.
Then to Vietnamvintage Caputo territorywhere a squad of misfits plunge deep into the jungle in search of the body of their mess sergeant, who has been carried off by a tiger.
No matter the backdrop, Philip Caputo's ear for the vernacular is unerring, while his interrogation of human natureof the deceptions we inflict on ourselves and othersis unflinching. Exiles affirms the remarkable range, the freedom from genre, of a writer whose "meditations on the love and hate of war were hailed by William Styron as "among the most eloquent I have read in modern literature.
The first and longest story, "Standing In," traces the emotional course travelled by Dante Panetta, a young barber who, while returning by Amtrak to Connecticut for his mother's funeral, meets an older married coupleGreer and Julian Rhodesto whom he finds himself helplessly bound by an "incredible accident of genetics." The ways in which Dante's eerie physical resemblance to their dead son affects both him and them are explored with brisk economy and skillful pacing in a memorable depiction of identity crisis and class conflict. "Paradise" describes the volatile impact of a shipwreck survivor on the inhabitants of a small island off the Australian coast. Caputo renders the locals' speech patterns expertly and shifts viewpoints to dazzling effect, creating enormous tension as the disturbed islanders wonder whether the mysterious Anson Barlow is a drug runner, or murderer, or something altogether worse. There's also a splendid surprise ending, in a terrific piece of storytelling that Peter Matthiessen or Robert Stone might well envy. "In the Forest of the Laughing Elephant" records a "rescue mission" carried out in the jungles of Vietnam by American soldiers whose mess sergeant has been carried away by an enormous tiger. The mission's obsessed leader is determined to exert authority over every enemy, even one motivated by nothing more combative than natural appetite ("It had to be shown who ruled this jungle"). The story is a tour de force: an inventive and haunting parable about men out of their element in a strange and dangerous new land.
A possible homage to literary mentors (the novellas respectively recall "The Great Gatsby", "The Nigger of the `Narcissus," and "Heart of Darkness"), and the finest work of Caputo's careera quantum leap beyond his previous fiction.
- Knopf Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1 ED
- Product dimensions:
- 6.63(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.30(d)
Meet the Author
After serving with the Marines in Vietnam, Philip Caputo spent six years as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, and won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on election fraud in Chicago. In 1975 he was wounded in Beirut and, during his convalescence, completed the manuscript for A Rumor of War, a Vietnam memoir that was published while Caputo was in Moscow, back on assignment for the Tribune. In 1977 he left the paper and turned to novels, of which he has written four, plus another memoir. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Leslie Blanchard Ware.
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