Summer Reading

Words gone wild! The best and the breeziest for beating the heat in 2002

Suffering from a potentially terminal case of "orgagenic disintegration," Paul consults a specialist -- in fraud, most likely -- whose Institute happens to offer harvested organs for transplant. Iceland (Dalkey Archive, $14.95), a brilliant black comedy of the semi-surrealist strain, opens here, during Paul's first visit to the organ pool. By pool, I mean one for swimming, complete with chlorine and a beautiful, scuba-clad caretaker named Emily. "All those earlier organs had been lonely," she explains of the preservation method, "and in between leaving their old bodies and finding a new one, they'd started to pine away, like people in a refugee camp." Paul and Emily end up making love "carefully," in the kiddie end of the pool, where the "corneas, testicles, ovaries, and such" are kept, and their consummation sets off a journey (from somewhere on the West Coast to, yes, Iceland in all its glory, and back again) of such outrageous fortune for the reserved typewriter repairman that one begins to expect the absurd. Though the thoughts in Jim Krusoe's first novel are deep ones -- how memory works, and why; how myth and reality dovetail and diverge in the collective unconscious; and how love quite often doesn't conquer all, or even come close -- his exposition is scaled down to one man's life, filled with the deadpan dialogue and everyday observations that make someone like Vonnegut so readable.

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More by Shawn Badgley
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