Toby Olson Kirkus Reviews - Essay

Kirkus Reviews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Though certainly a failure—ponderous, unpaced, lurching, implausible—poet Olson's second work of fiction [Seaview] … nonetheless has about it an imagistic, visionary hunger that's striking, that sets it apart…. [Seaview, a Cape Cod golf course,] is built on Indian tribal land—and it's here that the book concludes on a note of apocalypse: Indians staging a siege of the course. Richard stalking Allen in revenge for being burned, a nude-beach protest, Melinda meanwhile dying. True, such ungainliness—if speeded up—would deliver comedy. But Olson slows it down instead. And though certain scenes are just awful—Allen and Melinda making love while the Laetrile drips intravenously into her arm, a symbol-laced game of miniature golf, the climax—a few are spookily clear and magical: Bob White's explanation of what immortality actually involves; and the explanation of golf as a model for the invisibly drawn lines of everyday human effort…. Indeed, this golf imagery—despite the pawky golf scenes themselves—is a distinct poetic achievement. Unfortunately, however, the disastrous overload of the rest—with Olson attempting to put Indians, cancer, golf, and drugs in one lumpy narrative package—means that only intrepid, boredom-tolerant readers will come upon the genuinely fine moments here.

A review of "Seaview," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1982 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. L, No. 1, January 1, 1982, p. 30.