Novel from Loewinsohn; Magnetic Field(s), by Ron Loewinsohn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. $12.95
In Part 1 of this trim and unsettling first novel, a burglar ransacks a vacant house, alleging to himself reasons that have nothing to do with gain ("all he really wanted to do was be there in a place where people had their lives"). Part 2 focuses on the robbery victim, avantegarde composer David Lyman, later. While living in a rented house, he finds himself "intruding" on the lives of its absent family, particularly its doomed preadolescent son. Then, Part 3 shows us Lyman's unwilled "entry" into anunhappy friend's complicated life. A brilliant closing scene demononstrates dramatically and philosophically the degree to which all these existences and essences interpenetrate and confer meaning on one another.
The writing is slightly stiff, as if to ensure that we're following what it's attempting. Yet "Magnetic Field(s)," the first novel by a well-known poet, nevertheless avoids most of the pitfalls to which "experimental" novels are prone. It's satuarated with vivid and engrossing specific detail and is intelligently constructed. It marks an exciting debut by a writer who really may become an important novelist.