Alexander Theroux Essay - Critical Essays

Theroux, Alexander

A writer of stylized fiction, Theroux is the author of Three Wogs.

"Jungle Lovers" is filled with incidental delights, some very funny set-pieces. It is also enriched by a clean, ironic prose style and a powerful narrative drive. The novel's architecture is undeniably intelligent, but, alas, the beams show through clearly, the author's hand ever-present. I couldn't believe in the metamorphosis of Mullet from clumsy Babbittry to a character whose perceptions about Africa, though they do his maker credit, rest uneasily on his fragile shoulders. Marais's undoing, I fear, also owes more to ideological geometry than to life. There is too much that is superimposed, too little that flows with inner life.

Mordecai Richler, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1971 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 8, 1971, p. 6.

Alexander Theroux is thunderously equipped. Picric, sarod, quaquaversal. You've heard the blurb-phrase, "major, new talent," and you've had your doubts; no doubts, Theroux is a certified, grade A, major, new talent—he wears his "by these presents" across the forehead, front and back, sandwich-signing his legitimacy. Cep, grobians, sedilia. "Three Wogs" is an incredible performance: hilarious, moving, incisive and flamboyant beyond description. Eristic, semi-uncial, fornix. Theroux is an explosion: a self-destructing, self-reconstituting firework. Refained, skeltonics, thurible. I'd love to spend six days and seven nights bus-touring the Beckford Gothic garden of his vocabulary: never mind the meanings—that much I don't ask. Clooms, lampion, barrikin, furibund, and yes … mormoops.

"Three Wogs" is more theme and variations than novel…. Style is the book. Theroux's words jabberwock along…. His metaphors have East and West wings, cul-de-sac staircases, a gazebo on the hill. The syntax taxes. Yet—be sure of this—at no time is "Three Wogs" abstruse or unreadable. It is overwritten, certainly, but that is the book's premise; joy and fun its sanction….

Read this book…. You will laugh. You will be astonished. I imagine Alexander Theroux will have trouble with the next book. He has reached certain limits of style, just gotten off the blocks in theme and content. Let the editors at Gambit approach this remarkable talent with care and great wisdom.

D. Keith Mano, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 16, 1972, p. 4.