Michael Brodsky Robert Towers - Essay

Robert Towers

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Detour is an extremely dense, ambitious, and stylistically accomplished first novel by a young intellectual who has written on Svevo and who (on the evidence of this book) enjoys an intimate, frame-by-frame knowledge of every film made by Antonioni, Bergman, Bresson, Buñuel, Chabrol, Fellini, Godard, Hitchcock, Ophuls, Truffaut, Von Sternberg, and Welles. The novel, told in the first person by an unnamed young man, consists of extremely long paragraphs in which a brief sentence or so of inconsequential narration … introduces often more than a thousand words devoted to the analysis, or, more properly, deconstruction, of some impression, thought, or gesture before the leap to the next paragraph….

The insubstantiality of the "I"—of the narrator's self—provides the main psychological (and philosophic) interest of this curious novel. Though he exists and does things in the world, is the son of middle-class Jewish parents who bicker with each other and burden him with obligations, his existence is entirely problematic, always on the point of dissolution or total depletion. To validate his existence, he gnaws on the inside of his lip until it bleeds or bites his forefinger until it too bleeds. He is almost as preoccupied with masturbation as Alexander Portnoy, but the act, often stemming from the anxiety produced by a girl's presence, has little association with pleasure…. Although the novel's dust jacket refers to...

(The entire section is 509 words.)