Labors of Love (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
In a New York Times Book Review column in 1967, R. V. Cassill wrote that “Of all the arts, fiction is the one which most broadly connects the homely, private, errant, ridiculous and immature phases of our lives with the ripened abstractions of philosophy.” In his most recent novel, Labors of Love, Cassill makes just such a “broad connection,” but the reader may not be convinced that the “homely, private, errant, ridiculous and immature phases” of Cassill’s protagonist are convincingly connected with the “ripened abstractions of philosophy.”
At the end of Labors of Love, Troy Slater has what one must judge as an epiphany. Cassill writes,... in the change that had come over him, past and present tense had no useful distinction. Now he loved everyone he had ever loved, back to his eighth grade crush on one Pamela Stone. But love had ceased to be an appetite. He wanted to possess nothing that would stand in the way of his duty.
Unfortunately, Cassill has not made very clear what Slater’s duty is, and it remains unclear whether Slater has achieved selflessness or is merely rationalizing his old habit of doing what he wants to do.
A page earlier, Cassill writes that Slater could not save his children “by love or caution.” To save the children, himself, or his wife, he must do “something more radical.” Then, “To be faithful to his little family, he had first to be faithful...
(The entire section is 1599 words.)
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