D. Keith Mano Essay - Mano, D. Keith (Vol. 2)

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.