Paul's Reviews > Masters of Atlantis

Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis
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's review
Oct 15, 12

bookshelves: fiction, four-star-plus

Masters of Atlantis tells the life story of curiously passive Lamar Jimmerson, Master of the Gnomon Society, and the various acolytes and ne'er-do-wells who tag along with him for the ride. Of these the most interesting by far is Austin Popper, a sort of low-budget Elmer Gantry. There are one or two female characters in supporting roles, but the main characters are all men. The book reminded me of Michael Chabon's Kavalier & Clay, with the exception that the events in Kavalier & Clay were closely related to events that actually occurred in the middle of the 20th century; not so the events in Masters of Atlantis, which occurred nowhere at any time. Nevertheless, Masters of Atlantis has something important to say about man's belief in secret knowledge and the true sources of power. I'm not doing a very good job of justifying a four-star rating; you'll just have to trust me.

Portis is such a good writer. I wish he'd write more novels like True Grit, so I could fully enjoy the pleasure of reading Portis. With novels like Norwood and Masters of Atlantis, though, pleasure is accompanied by a measure of guilt. Portis, at least in Masters of Atlantis, is having too much fun, and I had fun reading it. I feel a bit like I used to feel listening to Firesign Theater while stoned.

I have two more Portis novels on the shelf: Gringos and Dog of the South. I will certainly read them, but not until I'm once again in a self-indulgent mood.
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