BY GEORGE – “Throwing Voices”March 23, 2012
by Wesley Stace
Back Bay Books, 2008
400 Pages, $11.72
The advantage of this complex novel is its disadvantage and finally becomes its advantage. There are two narrators. A “George” who is the bullied grandson of a great ventriloquist, and “George,” his ancestor’s dummy.
There is a strange adolescent infatuation with speaking through another than draws us through episodes of English boarding school, entertaining the troops during World War II and finally revisiting each location of these to discover what was really going on.
Somehow the confusion of multiple perspectives clicks into place, and the explanations are not only reasonable, but thematically satisfying…and yet. Well I wanted a payoff more bizarre that the meticulous writing and unusual subject matter led me to expect. I didn’t want explanations. I wanted magic.
In the Acknowledgments we find out that the author, singer-songwriter Wesley Stace (performs under the name, “John Wesley Harding”), actually had a grandfather, Clifford King, who was a ventriloquist with a dummy named “George.” They performed for soldiers during the war. Is that man talking through the author now?
And, do we talk to ourselves through characters in a book? Sometimes worried they might go too far?
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