Mano, D. Keith (Vol. 10)
Mano, D. Keith 1942–
An American novelist and critic, Mano is best known for Bishop's Progress, which, like most of his fiction, reflects his deep concern for the state of Christianity. (See also CLC, Vol. 2, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.)
D. Keith Mano's novel, Bishop's Progress …, details the twelve-day wait of Whitney Belknap, famous Episcopalian bishop, for major heart surgery to be performed by Dr. Snow, an equally famous surgeon. The impersonal life of the hospital and Dr. Snow contrast with the bishop's concern for Love in his book, A God for Our Time, but the bishop, though trying to relate to others, is as impersonal and loveless as his scientific counterparts. The twelve days become tedious before they are over, and the bishop's leaving the hospital before the performance of surgery, though intended to be a noble gesture, seems foolhardy. (p. 365)
Prairie Schooner (© 1969 by University of Nebraska Press; reprinted by permission from Prairie Schooner), Winter, 1968–69.
Horn is set in the future, at a time when Black militancy is strong. Harlem is run by George Horn Smith, a Negro who has a freakish eleven-inch horn jutting from his forehead, and who, according to his autobiography, tackled incredible adversity before becoming middleweight champion of the world and, finally, a leader of the Black revolution in the United States. The narrative is provided by Calvin Beecher Pratt, a mild, fat, understandably frightened Episcopalian priest, who elects to take a parish in Harlem after reading of Horn's life. The stand-off between these two men—their crass dissimilarity—provides Mr. Mano's theme, which is to show that, despite everything, they are not so unalike.
There are some very clever things in Horn: the high rhetoric and gaucherie of Horn's autobiography (excerpts are slotted, rather leadenly, into Pratt's narrative) is well judged, occupying a position somewhere between the embarrassing and the frightening. Similarly, John Meeker, a priest also, and a Harlem veteran, is finely characterized as a liberal whose desire for identification with and acceptance by, the black population of Harlem has pushed him to almost psychotic extremes; and Pratt's fear of physical violence—and his ultimate subjection to it—is conveyed with a fitting intensity and tells us as much about the potential hatred of a tormented race for its persecutors as about Pratt's personal timidity.
The book's length, though, proves a major drawback. There is too much space for the tension to spread into, and become absorbed; too often, this is what happens. (p. 642)
The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1970; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), June 11, 1970.
Colonel Mint provides a pleasant donnée: an astronaut in action sees an angel and says so. Most of the novel concentrates on the torments subsequently invented to force him to recant. One can surmise why the author might have thought it funny: long ago men suffered for their divergences from religious faith; now the state's destruction of deviants is as certain as the Inquisition's; such parallel and reversal is the stuff of comedy…. This is supposed to be an "extravagant comic novel," but the experience of reading it is simply depressing. For one thing, there's the quality of the prose: "I know who you think I am. A handy man, that's all. Husband, father—dead from the neck up. But I'm more than that. Shit, shit, yes. You want me to be like all the rest of them." And the quality of the mind behind it, manipulative, exploiting the sensational, apparently devoid of serious thought. (pp. 503-04)
Patricia Meyer Spacks, in The Hudson Review (copyright © 1972 by The Hudson Review, Inc.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXV, No. 3, Autumn, 1972.
Mano is still a writer of more promise than achievement. His strengths are energy, earnestness and a tough intelligence. But he is a stiff writer, not especially imaginative, and his overdrawn characters tend to be mere mouthpieces for ideas.
Part of Mano's success may stem from a frankly religious outlook. In these cynical, pragmatic times, nearly everyone is eager to admire religious faith—particularly if it is someone else's. Mano, an Episcopalian, is a specifically Christian novelist. In his books, God is a respected familiar; eternity is a definite place on the map. There is always an old-fashioned metaphysical confrontation. In his first novel, Bishop's Progress, the bishop and a...
(The entire section is 337 words.)
Mano, D. Keith (Vol. 2)
Mano, D. Keith 1942–
American novelist, author of Bishop's Progress. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28.)
Once we accept that "Horn" is not really about Harlem, once we realize it is not "1984," or, for that matter, "Bishop's Progress" (where Mano's central concern was with Evil), then we can begin to appreciate it for what it is—a fine young writer's tale about two men who might reasonably expect to find the worse in the other but insead find the best. Despite all the tortures such a book may describe, the shortcomings that may mar it, it can but leave a residue of warmth.
Stephen F. Caldwell, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1969 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 9, 1969, pp. 6, 43.
As were Mano's first two books, "War Is Heaven!" is about the complexity and ambiguity of good and evil—and is peopled by persons bigger than life, more than they seem. Its grandness of conception, however, tires and rubs instead of edifying, enlightening, pleasing, saving. Experience, Hook says, is getting used to anything, learning to live with evil—and Mano tries to get us used to anything, so that we will be receptive to Hook's offer of salvation when it is finally made…. Ultimately, he seems to say, since death and life appear identical but are not, then life must exist elsewhere, presumably in Heaven. It does not exist in this novel, a book that reflects the fragmentation of our souls in its ununited fragments.
Stephen Caldwell, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1970 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 21, 1970, p. 33.
Mano is a gutsy writer with an extravagant vision of the universe. His real genius [here, in "The Death and Life of Harry Goth"] is in somehow keeping a funeral ship, heavily laden with pathos and parable, afloat, while it is buffeted by howling gales of laughter….
Incident follows incident, witty and grim in turn, and only rarely ever out of balance, and it would probably do this fine novel a disservice to list some of the many anomalies that make for its humor and pathos at the same time. For it is as complex as Mano, preoccupied beneath the surface with the weighty stuff of major themes, must needs be deeply thinking. It should be read, and let the reader taste in the bargain the grandeur of writing that (even in the flagrance of its comedy) approaches the level of a comprehendible Te Deum.
Tom McHale, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1971 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 14, 1971, pp. 6-7.
Each year of the past four a novel has come from the criminally young D. Keith Mano; "The Proselytizer," on schedule, is his fifth. Mr. Mano's signature is characterized by an unfashionable partiality toward the grand moral conundrum (What does it all mean?) and prose that is sometimes mannered, sometimes strained beyond its inherent strength, always fully-written, bold, inventive. He is one of the few self-confessed Christian novelists among us, a man willing to collide with The Good Book on matters of grace, immortality, the Fall and salvation….
Mr. Mano, for the sake of his prose, loves those mutilated and misbegotten grotesques on call at penny wages from The Black Comedians' Theatrical Agency. For the sake of bet-you-can't metaphors, zanies abound, and dance all the Gothic steps; but Mr. Mano's special weakness is for fat, for the grossly self-deformed. His obese characters serve as fitting analogues for this novelist's own conspicuous appetites. Just a little too much is just enough for Mr. Mano. Not for him peace and quiet, the ordinary. He cherishes crisis, calamity and farce; he drives at full throttle, straight pipes howling.
Geoffrey Wolff, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 23, 1972, pp. 4-5, 19.
D. Keith Mano has demonstrated a large talent and the disciplined energy to write five novels in five years. That talent and energy are once again directed toward Mano's constant subject, Christianity, his vision of which is neither doctrinaire, nor pompous, nor fashionably radical.
Bishop's Progress (1968), which recounted the pilgrimage of a spiritually lazy bishop from imminent damnation to salvation through suffering and a new recognition of his own mortality, forms the keystone of a carefully structured body of work. Horn (1969), War Is Heaven (1970), and The Death and Life of Harry Goth (1971) consider from widely divergent perspectives the palpable presence of evil in man and the awareness that there are many strange paths to salvation.
The Proselytizer is a significant addition to this body of work, although, considered singly, it is less than a complete success….
Some of Mano's readers may find less of what they would like to hear from him in The Proselytizer than in his earlier novels. In Kris Lane's excesses and in David Smith's ultimately graceful resignation there is no note of hope, no celebration of indomitable spirit. Instead, there is compassion in this black humor and real wisdom. This is not as enjoyable a book as Bishop's Progress or Harry Goth, nor is it as well balanced between high seriousness and humor; yet it takes Mano's vision a step farther than those books did. And it may be more difficult to forget.
Barry H. Leeds, in Saturday Review (copyright © 1972 by Saturday Review; first appeared in Saturday Review, July 15, 1972; used with permission), July 15, 1972, p. 58.