Alexander (Louis) Theroux Eve Ottenberg - Essay

Eve Ottenberg

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Alexander Theroux hates injustice. In his first book, Three Wogs, he swoops down on it with a savage indignation that outstrips the prose. The racism of the white Englishmen and women who parade through this novel is at once his target and motivation. He is constantly on the attack—relentless, merciless, nasty. He has high ideals which lead him always to present his characters at their worst. His unwillingness to compromise on how people should treat each other is only matched by his views on prose, expressed in his essay "Theroux Metaphrastes" and reconfirmed in his newest novel, Darconville's Cat, the style of which is ornate, copious, digressive, modeled on that of Sterne and Joyce. In short, he is a writer determined to prove his point—something essential in matters of style and social justice. As long as he was focusing his talents on how racism corrodes character, this determination yielded that rare pleasure in contemporary fiction of seeing a complete social world through luxurious prose. But in another context, the love story of Darconville's Cat, Theroux's avenging angels are a bit out of place. Indeed, at times they descend upon the reader like a pack of harpies….

That Darconville could all but cohabitate with Isabelle for four years and yet have so little idea of who she is would, if such things didn't happen every day, be too incredible to be believed. The same could be said of Isabel. But since this novel is written mainly from Darconville's point of view, it takes the form of an attack on her character. Hence the harpies, i.e., the tirades of Dr....

(The entire section is 664 words.)