Cartoon Quality

Zachary Leader

  • Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright by Steven Millhauser
    Routledge, 305 pp, £4.95
  • A Prize Paradise by Oliver Pritchett
    Eyre Methuen, 171 pp, £4.95
  • A Revenger’s Comedy by Derwent May
    Chatto, 191 pp, £5.95

Edwin Mullhouse etc is by far the most interesting and inventive of the three novels under review. It is also, with all its knowing brilliance, the most irritating – relentlessly clever, frequently cloying. The story it tells is that of the life and aesthetically pleasing death by suicide of Edwin, 11-year-old author of Cartoons, a novel, we are told, of genius. It is also that of Edwin’s biographer, Jeffrey, a mere half-year older, whose exhaustively solemn record of his lifelong friend’s minutest peculiarities and achievements continually draws attention away from its subject. This tension between subject and biographer is central to the novel, and has wider, at times metaphysical, implications.

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