Troy Patterson
May 03, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Horned Man

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
James Lasdun
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B-

An austere puzzle about dreams, doubles, magic, lust, and the limits of reason, the first novel from an acclaimed poet and short-story writer is an uneven allegory. The unreliable narrator is Lawrence Miller, his name as plain as his supremely affectless tone. Separated from his wife, he leads a solitary life in New York and teaches gender studies at a college where he sits on the sexual harassment committee. Reality collapses and horrors converge: Someone (a crazed ex-professor, perhaps?) has created a lair in his office and seems to be committing lewd acts using his name—making calls, sending love notes, bludgeoning women. Is Lawrence paranoid? Is he a slobbering psychopath? Isn’t it frustrating when a book gets so tangled in symbolism that you can’t see the tale for the themes?

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