The specific gravity of The Resurrection is very great. James Chandler, a metaphysician living in a time of analysis, feels that he was born out of time. Because of his interests, however perverse for this age, and because he is dying from leukemia, he might be forgiven for being concerned about important questions that, as a philosopher, he is prepared to discuss at an elevated level. Since James Chandler is a philosopher who comes from the mind of a novelist, he also might be forgiven for having an interest in aesthetics, though of course it is the novel itself that is Gardner’s aesthetic response to very heavy questions.
Immediately after the diagnosis of his illness, Chandler decides to return to Batavia in western New York, the town in and near which he (and the author) grew up. He, his wife, and their daughters stay there with his mother, still alive though failing; his father, an undereducated man of intelligence who spent much of his time trying to perfect a perpetual-motion machine, has died. Also still alive are the Staley sisters, whom Chandler soon visits, all mediocrities but important in the town in their day: One was a painter, though she now is senile; one still gives piano lessons; and one, now deaf, was a singer. Their vestigial status says much about the culture of Batavia. Their niece, Viola, takes care of them and their house and, ill-used by them and by life, is bitter. She becomes much less so as she comes to love James Chandler, a pipe-smoking, fair-haired, owl-faced man with glasses, who—glasses excepted—resembles Gardner.
The sisters in their varying artistic ways are trying to order life, to make it conform to some rules. So are some students at a local institution for the blind, watched in fascination by the Chandler girls, as they try to play baseball. Of course, once the ball stops rolling, the players have no way to find it except by...
(The entire section is 781 words.)