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FICTION : ARROWS OF DESIRE by Geoffrey Household (Atlantic Monthly: $12.95).

May 25, 1986|Charles Champlin

The prolific Geoffrey Household, whose "Rogue Male" and "A Watcher in the Shadows" are classics of adventurous suspense, here delivers what for him is an oddity: a slim, satirical novella set 700 years after what he calls The Age of Destruction (which seems to have occurred about now). England, long thought to be impossibly radioactive, is a weedy outpost of the ruling Euro-African Federation, but is slowly being repopulated by small, independent-minded tribes of British descent, who have arrived from the mother colony in Africa. They have only the vaguest notions of their own distant history, and imagine cricket to have been a slow ritual dance in favor of decontamination. But they sing an anthem called "Landa Fope," and the old juices of freedom flow through them, as they wander amid the mysterious mounds that were once their civilization. But war, too, is a forgotten art, and attempts to revive it are a slapstick failure, which gives Household's little tale its waggish good cheer. Originally done as a radio play, the novella is so little fleshed out that it is as demanding of the readers as a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett. But for once, a work of fiction leaves you wanting more, not less.

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