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Fiction

June 01, 1986|Taffy Cannon

WAKING THE DEAD by Scott Spencer (Knopf: $17.95). Nobody writes about obsession quite like Scott Spencer. His splendid and acclaimed 1979 novel, "Endless Love," scaled the peaks and plumbed the depths of adolescent passion. In "Waking the Dead," Spencer's fourth novel, the protagonist is more seasoned, but Spencerian obsession can strike at any age.

Fielding Pierce at age 29 has risen from working-class Brooklyn through Harvard to the Chicago district attorney's office. He lives with his political mentor's sophisticated niece and has just been offered the Democratic slot for a midterm congressional election. The only hitch? He hasn't yet gotten over his one true love, Sarah Williams, killed with two Chilean dissidents in a political bombing four years earlier.

Fielding believes that "ambition is the ice on the lake of emotion." As he plunges into his political campaign, he begins to have a strong sense of the presence of Sarah, and the ice starts melting fast. There are hang-ups on his phone, baffling personal ads, overheard snatches of music. It can't be Sarah, because Sarah is dead. Isn't she? At a time when he needs to focus all his resources, Fielding finds his personal life unraveling.

Spencer's writing is rich and original. With lasting images on almost every page. Fielding Pierce is an unforgettable character, and "Waking the Dead" is full of the felicitous use of language.

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