Friday, April 17, 2009

Librarian's Choice: P.F. Kluge's GONE TOMORROW

P.F. Kluge's beloved novel Gone Tomorrow has been selected as a May pick by the San Francisco Public Library: "P. F. Kluge's affecting new novel, Gone Tomorrow, is the story of George Canaris, a writer who spends his career not writing but rather as a creative writing teacher at a small, bucolic Ohio college. (The college is, I suspect, not unlike Kenyon, where P. F. Kluge not only attended as an undergraduate, but where he has taught for a number of years.) This tale of the blessing and curse of an academic life for writers is framed by the search for a long-awaited, possibly non-existent, new novel of Canaris's. He wrote one novel in the 1960s, which brought him fame, fortune, a permanent place on the list of greatest works of fiction of all time, and a tenured position at a small but prestigious college. Then his agent and his publisher, not to mention the president of the college, the head of his department, his students, and his legion of fans, waited--in vain, as it turned out--for the appearance of a second novel, supposedly called The Beast. Finally--and against all the rules of tenure--the college decides to replace Canaris with a younger, more with-it (and productive) writer. What follows forces Canaris (and us) to think about fame, about what's important in life, and about love, loyalty, and the nature of creativity. Canaris is a simply wonderful character; the story of his life is moving, honest, tender and--occasionally--very funny. (When George meets John Henry Mallon, the wunderkind writer of gargantuan novels who replaces him, George reports this exchange in his journal: "'I've read your books,' he said. 'Great.' 'I've lifted yours,' I responded. 'Heavy.'") This is a good choice for readers who enjoy character-driven novels, but it's a must read for anyone who's spent any time in the world of academe. Kluge knows whereof he writes."

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