Addict (drugaddict) wrote,

The boy is Che Selkirk, given his provoking first name by his privileged, radical parents, members o


The boy is Che Selkirk, given his provoking first name by his privileged, radical parents, members of S.D.S., who have disappeared into the underground and are among America’s most wanted domestic terrorists. He is almost eight in 1972, when the novel opens, has never known his father, and has not seen his mother, Susan Selkirk, since he was two. The formidable Grandma Selkirk, who insists on calling him Jay, has been raising him, and has secured for her grandson the “Victorian” consolations of bourgeois comfort in Manhattan and a summer house in upstate New York, on Kenoza Lake: “It would always be summer, in his memory, the roadsides dense with goldenrod and the women from the village coming to steal the white hydrangeas just like their mothers stole before them. The geese would be heading up to Canada and the Boeings spinning their white contrails across the cold blue sky—loneliness and hope, expanding like paper flowers in water.” 

Carey and Kunzru share an interest in the sordid decay of radical purity.

Everything changes when Anna Xenos, nicknamed Dial, turns up one day at Grandma Selkirk’s apartment, on East Sixty-second Street, to collect Che for a meeting with his mother. Dial was the boy’s nanny when he was a baby, and she and Susan were Radcliffe students together. Permitted to take the boy for an hour, she follows increasingly obscure commands from Susan and “the Movement,” and ends up first in Philadelphia and then in California. Che, having no visual memory of his mother, assumes that Dial is she, and a painful irony is set in motion. What Carey calls “the dark strength of the misunderstanding” will persist for more than half the book, because Dial does not have the courage to disenchant this “lovely little boy,” with his “perfect little boy legs, falling socks, banged-up shin and expensive sweater made from merino sheep, the face, the father’s face, dear Jesus

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