• WHITE APPLES•
Vincent Ettrich is in a tight spot. He has died and been brought back to life to help save his unborn son from evil and chaotic forces who want to prevent this son from becoming the savior of the universe. Sound bizarre? Welcome to the surreal and metaphysically massive novel White Apples by Jonathan Carroll.
Following up the equally strange but widely acclaimed The Wooden Sea, Carroll paints on an even wider canvas with White Apples. In Carroll's world, humans are key threads in a giant tapestry that is being woven as life is lived. But there are dark forces at work who don't want the weaving to continue as is and Ettrich, his beloved Isabelle, and their sentient fetus find themselves standing in the way. Their struggles to merely understand what is happening to them and to stand tall in the very face of darkness makes for a humorous, touching, and thrilling tale with, as is expected, a big bang of an ending. But the most marvelous aspect of the novel is not its far-reaching, mind-blowing metaphysics. It's the wonderfully tragic love story of Vincent and Isabelle that keeps this flight of fancy grounded and beautifully human.
• Reviews •
"In February, the month when suicide always looks good to me, I taught a class in Poe..." This and other strange sentences lace the baroque and iridescent world of novelist Jonathan Carroll. Too beautiful for the Tolkien crowd, and perhaps too fevered and hallucinatory for lovers of popular literary fiction, Carroll's strange hybrids exist in a twilight zone that has both befuddled mainstream publishers and eluded a mass readership. Yet they've won him a string of admirers--including Jonathan Lethem, Pat Conroy, Katherine Dunn, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.
Even without Carroll's skillful fusion of reality and fantasy--or should we say, if it wasn't for it?--he would be acknowledged as a writer of New Yorker caliber whose acute observations about men, women and their relationships radiate poignant truths. Think of any writer who's picked up a genius award or Pulitzer for their collection of minutely observed short stories of domestic intimacy... Carroll is better than them. Trust me. Carroll's novels begin in stark, urbane daylight. But gradually--and subversively--they make a gentle 180-degree turn, until by the novel's end we are inhabiting a haunting modern fairy tale, unrecognizable from the world where we began.
In Carroll's masterpiece, Sleeping in Flame, what begins as a brooding, witty and bittersweet novel--think Paul Auster or Haruki Murakami--about a film actor and his desire for the beautiful and androgynous Maris York, has, by its end, traversed a world of shamans and sea monsters in an astonishing reworking of the Grimm tale "Rumpelstiltskin." In White Apples, his latest novel, gone is Carroll's distinctive, first-person narrative. He plunges us into the surreal almost immediately as Carroll's philandering bastard of a hero, Vincent Ettrich, discovers that he is dead and has come back to life, though he's not sure why; neither does he remember the events leading to his death. Things are further complicated when his great love, Isabelle, arrives from Vienna--Carroll's eternal city. Isabelle is a typical Carroll heroine--complex and absolutely enchanting. And she's pregnant, with Vincent's child. A further series of bizarre twists propel him on a courageous journey of earth-sh
attering importance, where the alignment of the cosmos is at stake. As usual, a parallel universe unravels as the story progresses; Carroll's novels become entwined in dream worlds, alien worlds and reincarnated lives, and Vincent's life acquires an epic, even heroic dimension.
This is vintage Carroll: ingeniously plotted, richly metaphorical and metaphysical with a seditious and very witty take on reality. Magic is everywhere in his universe, a universe I'm very comfortable revisiting. The truth about Carroll is that he's a magic realist who plunders our unconscious for profound emotional truths. He's been compared to Calvino, Dostoyevsky and even Jim Carrey. A dear friend joked to me that if Carroll Latinized his name and titled his novels The Saucy Pantaloons of Alfredo García he would instantly find an American audience fond of literary exoticism." – Carl Bromley