Pete Axthelm

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182

Brooding, intensely introspective and yet gifted with a self-mocking, ironic wit, the hero of ["What Happens Next?"] is a spiritual descendant of Moses Herzog. He dreams flamboyantly, then punctures his own fantasies with relentless honesty. His spirit soars toward athletic feats and redemptive journeys, but his reality is Ace Bandages...

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Brooding, intensely introspective and yet gifted with a self-mocking, ironic wit, the hero of ["What Happens Next?"] is a spiritual descendant of Moses Herzog. He dreams flamboyantly, then punctures his own fantasies with relentless honesty. His spirit soars toward athletic feats and redemptive journeys, but his reality is Ace Bandages and grim vacation motel rooms with no view of the ocean…. Rejecting the easy answers and unable to find the hard ones, Singer [the protagonist] is frustrated and, ultimately, vaguely unsatisfying as a hero. But because Gilbert Rogin often writes with the humor and sensitivity of the best work of Saul Bellow, he has created a worthy addition to the genre.

Because "What Happens Next?" is a narrative fashioned from a series of separately conceived short stories, it lacks the sustained drama or full vision of a novel like "Herzog." But within its limitations, it is a finely crafted, thoroughly entertaining piece of writing.

Pete Axthelm, "Rounding up the New Novels: 'What Happens Next?'" in Newsweek (copyright 1971 by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. LXXVIII, No. 17, October 25, 1971, p. 120.

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