A Handbook for Visitors from Outer Space (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
Increasingly, American novelists seem to be ignoring the literary ground broken in the 1950’s and 1960’s by such writers as Vladimir Nabokov, John Hawkes, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Berger, Joseph Heller, Robert Coover, and, especially, John Barth and Thomas Pynchon. Black humor and other such labels emphasizing the absurd and experimental nature of their works are insufficient to describe the aesthetic vitality, intellectual stimulation, sheer joy, and newness of these writers’ approach to fiction, yet few first, second, or third novelists of the late 1970’s or early 1980’s have followed their lead. Instead, there has been a plethora of humorlessly realistic explorations of the banalities of urban and suburban American life. T. Coraghessan Boyle’s Water Music (1981) and John Calvin Batchelor’s The Birth of the People’s Republic of Antarctica (1983) are among the rare exceptions to this trend; Kathryn Kramer’s first novel, A Handbook for Visitors from Outer Space, is another. Like her less conventional predecessors, Kramer relies on humor, irony, and imagination to propel her vision of man’s inhumanity to himself. Her book is also notable for avoiding the obviously autobiographical material of most first novelists and the overtly feminist material of many recent women novelists.
A Handbook for Visitors from Outer Space tells several related or tangentially related stories, the main one of which...
(The entire section is 1343 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
Booklist. LXXX, June 15, 1984, p. 1438.
Christian Science Monitor. LXXVI, September 5, 1984, p. 21.
Kirkus Reviews. LII, May 1, 1984, p. 423.
Library Journal. CIX, July, 1984, p. 1347.
Los Angeles Times. July 13, 1984, V, p. 19.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXIX, August 5, 1984, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXV, May 11, 1984, p. 260.
(The entire section is 40 words.)