T(homas) Alan Broughton Gary F. Waller - Essay

Gary F. Waller

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Winter Journey casts the mind, perhaps inevitably, back to Hawthorne's The Marble Faun: two Americans, seeking respite from masochistic relationships, and encountering aspects of themselves with which, in hope, they return to America…. The setting is Rome, disturbingly rich, "worn and yellowed," its "labyrinths" of intimacy and warmth, contrast sharply with the nervous egocentricity of their American characters. It becomes a subtly changing mirror of their moral discoveries…. (p. 98)

Broughton's interest is primarily psychological not philosophical,… as in his striking first novel, A Family Gathering, he is particularly sensitive to the delicacy of family relationships, especially between children and parents. His observations force the reader into constant self-interrogation, into questions motivated by their urgency rather than the possibility of final solutions: how do we relate the contingent present to our family or cultural roots? How can our family or sexual relationships bear the burden we place upon them in a shifting, unpredictable world? Do we solve our emotional impasses by fleeing them? The novel is full of delicately evoked scenes where such questions occur to the reader. By the end, Nancy and Carey return from the semi-pastoral world of Rome, itself almost a fiction where the characters "go around in circles, acting out again and again, the things" that they must "work out in time," to America, where there are "real nets, something to struggle with." Like the readers of fiction, they have withdrawn, to discover that the sojourn in a strange world may end, but its impact will continue. (p. 99)

Gary F. Waller, "New Fiction: Illumination, Participation, Tact," in The Ontario Review (copyright © 1980 by The Ontario Review, Inc.), No. 12, Spring-Summer, 1980, pp. 94-9.∗