Vanished (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Mary McGarry Morris’ Vanished stands out of the literary crop of its time like an icicle on the Fourth of July. In a climate increasingly dominated by trifling accounts of yuppies or yuppies-gone-bad, Morris’ taut account of three socially marginal people seems striking indeed. Yet she is writing in a distinct tradition—a tradition older than the spare realism of Raymond Carver or William Kennedy, who share Morris’ preoccupation with outcasts but not her narrative drive. Although Vanished takes place primarily in New England, its antecedents are Southern novels, most particularly the more sensational works of William Faulkner.
The novel’s protagonist, Aubrey Wallace, is a strange combination of Faulkner’s Benjy Compson and Byron Bunch. A simple-minded road worker well into middle age, Wallace is one of the most passive heroes in recent fiction. He is someone who has allowed fate and other people to dictate his life almost completely. The novel’s point of view is primarily but not entirely Wallace’s, and insofar as it documents any significant growth of character that too is Wallace’s. Entering into the fictive world of Vanished means fine-tuning one’s sensibilities to the severely restricted awareness of its hero, a man by no means deficient in feeling, but who is practically incapable of translating thought into constructive action.
Vanished begins with a prologue that is breathtaking in...
(The entire section is 2465 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Booklist. LXXXIV, May 1, 1988, p. 1477.
Boston Globe. July 19, 1988, p. 58.
Kirkus Reviews. LVI, April 1, 1988, p. 485.
Library Journal. CXIII, May 1, 1988, p. 90.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 26, 1988, p. 3.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, July 3, 1988, p. 5.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIII, May 6, 1988, p. 93.
Time. CXXXII, July 4, 1988, p. 71.
Vogue. CLXXVIII, June, 1988, p. 84.
The Washington Post. June 22, 1988, p. C2.
(The entire section is 53 words.)