Study Guide

Caliban's Filibuster

by Paul West

Caliban's Filibuster Summary

Summary (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

To speak of plot in Caliban’s Filibuster is to suggest that it adheres to a series of fictional conventions which simply do not pertain. Of outward action there is very little (three men are flying in a jet from California to Japan, where they meet other actors and a Japanese producer); it is the tortured musings of Cal’s consciousness which provide the basis for most of the novel’s activities.

The novel opens with the protagonist, Cal, rehearsing in his mind a film in which he functions as both actor and audience as he travels over the Pacific. As he dramatizes his relationships with his two traveling companions— Sammy Zeuss and Murray McAndrew—a host of voices begin interrupting, questioning, and even demanding that Cal explain, change, or otherwise amend his cinematic musings. While it is unclear exactly to whom these voices belong, the reader quickly discerns that these are parts of Cal himself or alternate selves competing with the self that appears in control.

What quickly emerges from these meditations is Cal’s overwhelming frustration with the course that his career has taken; instead of writing the novel he had always aspired to write, he feels forced to capitulate to Zeuss’s crass aesthetics and grind out endless hack work. Almost as a hedge against this commercial turn that his career has taken, Cal begins formulating the first of three interdependent, yet distinctly separate, scenarios, in which he and his two...

(The entire section is 603 words.)

Caliban's Filibuster Bibliography (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Kirkus Reviews. Review. XXXIX (February 15, 1971), p. 199.

Library Journal. Review. XCVI (April 15, 1971), p. 1389.

National Observer. Review. X (May 17, 1971), p. 19.

The New York Times Book Review. Review. LXIV (June 20, 1971), p. 5.

Publishers Weekly. Review. CXCIX (March 8, 1971), p. 63.