In 1951, on the day after his 28th birthday, with his oral exams passed but his master's thesis not even begun, Jacob Horner finds himself in a BaltimIn 1951, on the day after his 28th birthday, with his oral exams passed but his master's thesis not even begun, Jacob Horner finds himself in a Baltimore train station, asking the ticket agent where he can go for $30. Cincinnati, Ohio? Crestline, Dayton or Lima, Ohio? He retreats to a bench to make up his mind, but there realizes he has no reason to go anywhere -- not to Ohio, not even back to his apartment. "I simply ran out of motives, as a car runs out of gas," he says. "There was no reason to do anything. My eyes ... were sightless, gazing on eternity, fixed on ultimacy, and when that is the case there is no reason to do anything--even to change the focus of one's eyes." The following day, a doctor passes Jacob, noting his paralysis, and asks that he return with him to his Remobilization Farm for a course of therapy that includes studying the World Almanac, finding a teaching job at a university, and various other tasks. "If you aren't courageous enough to hire prostitutes," the doctor says, "then take up masturbation temporarily. Above all, act impulsively: don't let yourself get stuck between alternatives, or you're lost. You're not that strong. If the alternatives are side by side, choose the one on the left; if they're consecutive in time, choose the earlier. If neither of these applies, choose the alternative whose name begins with the earlier letter of the alphabet. These are the principles of Sinistrality, Antecedence, and Alphabetical Priority--there are others, and they're arbitrary, but useful. Good-by." An existential melodrama of sorts, with a winning and self-conscious narrator, this novel takes all 'isms to the end of the road and shows what happens when you don't see gray areas and acknowledge paradoxes in an absurd world. In a word, great....more
It took me several years to get into Angels, and then when I finally did read it I apparently thought little of the experience (three stars?). Since tIt took me several years to get into Angels, and then when I finally did read it I apparently thought little of the experience (three stars?). Since then, I've read the book four or five times, and I've come to think as highly of it as Jesus' Son. It may even be the better of the two.
The two books are both similar and different. They both deal in drifters and drug abuse, but whereas Jesus' Son gives you the comfort of a narrator speaking many years after the fact ("He died. I am still alive"), Angels is far more immediate - when horrible things happen, they happen to you in the now. This fact is made all the more powerful by the sheer brilliance of the prose. The language is Jesus' Son is languid and dreamy, a sort of hallucinated memory; the sentences in Angels are more muscular and sculpted, the kind of perfectly crafted lines that Isaac Babel was thinking of when he said: "No iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.” ...more