Julius Horwitz Raymond Sokolov - Essay

Raymond Sokolov

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Natural Enemies"] is Julius Horwitz's seventh novel, and he has learned a few tricks along the way, but, as in an earlier book, "The W.A.S.P.," his shrill kvelling over the decline of urban civilization tends to discredit his story. Horwitz is always exaggerating some social catastrophe that is not really so bad as he claims. For instance, I would like to see the proof of [one character's] statement about the up-swing in mass murders of a family by the father. I cannot believe such events are accelerating to the point at which they constitute a trend. But Horwitz seems to need to validate his story of one man by sociologizing it into an exemplum of modern life.

In a way, Horwitz mitigates this problem by writing in the first person, which puts the sociological overkill in the mouth of his unhinged protagonist. The overall effect, nevertheless, of Horwitz's highly realistic diary technique is that of a case-study presented for our edification. The author must, we are eventually convinced, think that most men, or even larger numbers of them, live on the edge of parricide.

Unfortunately, this obsession deflects Horwitz's energies from fictional tasks he does well. He has a gift for portraying middle-aged resignation in long monologues…. I like [his] slightly wacko irony. If only there were more of it, instead of so much unconvincing psychosocial pathology.

Raymond Sokolov, "Three Novels: 'Pride of the Bimbos', 'Slammer', and 'Natural Enemies'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 14, 1975, p. 41.∗