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Mickelsson's Ghosts Hardcover – May 12, 1982
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About the Author
John Gardner’s gripping James Bond novels include: Seafire, License Renewed, Icebreaker, Role of Honour, Nobody Lives Forever, No Deals Mr. Bond, and Never Send Flowers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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He is a hard read (as are the above mentioned at times) not only because he weaves in many "intellectual" thoughts (e.g of Martin Luther, Nietzsche et al) that I had to read several times to digest, but because I always got the feeling that I was really reading the massive guilt and depression of John himself and not just of the fictional main character. It was as if I inadvertently opened someone's diary and read something too personal for public consumption. (Pat Conroy is a writer that impacts me in a similar fashion.)
I mourned Gardner's early death, but his motorcycle "accident" seemed to be telegraphed in his writings (including this one).
This is not for someone looking for a "story".
Gardner has crammed a lot into this sprawling novel: mystery, murder, sex, politics, psychology, philosophy, academic backbiting, poetic prose, dime store novel prose, the mundane, the supernatural...Whatever your taste you are likely to find something to chew on. Unfortunately while savoring your bites, I think you'll find that the book is too long, that the prose will occasionally require the use of some of the antacid Michelson episodically chews, that Gardner suffers from logorrhea, and that much of style is borrowed from others. It's a salad of Updike, Stephen King, Oates etc, garnished with the ghosts of Nietzche, Collingwood, Wittgenstein, Marx etc. I suspect he never learned what most of the great composers and writers understood: that there is much music between the notes and much thought in what is left unsaid. And yet, despite the indigestion, Gardner provides enough to keep you from going hungry. And lots to think about.
As Mickelsson careens through a season of discontent, we follow willingly along in his wake. The book is an overstuffed toy box of ideas and events. Neitzsche and Wittgenstein cast major shadows across Mickelsson's thought processes. He wrestles with the phantasms of his boyhood, the pain of his recent divorce, the "actual" ghosts who inhabit the dilapidated farmhouse he's fixing up in rural Pennsylvania, the higher and lower angels of his sex life, and his blunderings through the complicated, intermittently treacherous worlds of academia and small town America.
This novel threatens to fly off in a dozen directions. What holds it together is Gardner's marvelous prose. The book is best read in small sips rather than great gulps, the better to savor Gardner's well-made paragraphs and the sweep of his ideas. The other unifying force is Mickelsson's perverse faith that goodness and order do exist (perhaps beyond reach) above the squalor and chaos of the life he's fallen into. Drowning in randomness and unreason, Mickelsson fights on, and despite his many sins and missteps, his stubbornness comes to seem admirable, heroic even.
This is one of the best American novels you'll read. Its power, sweep, ambition and humanity put it right up there with Moby Dick, only the white whale here is the search for life's meaning among the mind games of modern philosophy and the mysteries and dangers that lurk out at the edges of the American experience.
Most recent customer reviews
—Puck, in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
On page 286 of John Gardner’s novel Mickelsson’s Ghosts (1982), the...Read more
It was not the kind of story to keep me reading till I finished.