Title: The Sightseer
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 1974
Edition: 1st Edition.
New York. 1974. Random House. 1st American Edition. Very Good In Slightly Worn Dustjacket. 273 pages. February 1974. hardcover. Jacket design by Paul Bacon. Signed by The Author. 0394487125. keywords: Literature America. inventory # 8005. FROM THE PUBLISHER - What is one to make of Caleb Sharrow, the sightseer of the title and the protagonist of this sensual and enigmatic novel? A brilliant young film maker who longs to free himself from facts, from ‘things as they really are,’ Caleb travels to Vienna, and thence to points east, ostensibly in search of the theme and subject of his next film, but in fact the journey is an effort to shake off his past. Heretofore his most successful film has been a cinema verité about the pain-wracked last days of a dying man, Hailed by critics as a brilliant, sensitive work of art, the winner of several prestigious awards and even a modest commercial success, the film, called Death Watch, is a key to the character of Caleb, for it turns out that the dying man was his father. How are we to view a son who is a voyeur to the agonies of a parent’s death? Is he a cold-blooded, unfeeling child making capital out of the demise of a loved one, or is he a consummate artist able to find beauty even in the ugly, enriching us all? Would he, in fact, ‘blow up the world to film its end,’ as his twin brother Noel charges? Or does the truth lie in his rebuttal: ‘No, but if it were coming to an end, I’d like to spend my last few seconds shooting the event, and imposing some sense and beauty on it.’ Yet though the morality-and immorality-of art is the theme of this rich and reflective novel, it is textured by the senses, The Sightseer is spiced with marvelously vivid physical episodes, permeated by the taste of exotic food, the sound of skis whispering through dry powdered snow, the smell of a market in Istanbul, the feel of a woman’s skin on a warm afternoon-but above all by the visual, the art of seeing, for both Caleb’s eyes and camera dominate these pages. In prose of extraordinary flexibility that ranges from slang to poetic cadence, Mr. Wolff has created memorable adventures and bizarre characters remarkable for their plausibility. Among them are a febrile, incestuous Turkish family (whose daughter Caleb mates), a CIA spook named Bright, an earthquake which destroys a town, and, at the last, the filming of Caleb’s new masterpiece on a deserted Greek island, culminating in the death of the leading man. Caleb Sharrow’s declaration of independence from things as they are is at once heroic and costly. In the name of art he arranges time and causality, and manipulates people; on behalf of his perceptions some people die, others are mined, and all- even Caleb himself-are fixed with a loving lack of pity. What higher praise for art is possible, and what worse condemnation of humanity? in the space between these two conundrums, readers vibrate, and each will reach his own conclusion, for The Sightseer has a grandeur of vision that offers many interpretations. GEOFFREY WOLFF was born in 1937, and was educated at Cambridge and at Princeton University, from which he graduated summa cum laude. His first novel, BAD DEBTS, was published in 1969. Mr. Wolff has been a book editor of the Washington Post and of Newsweek, and was a Guggenheim Feb low in 1972. For two years he was a member of the faculty at Istanbul University in Turkey, and he now teaches at Princeton. He is married and has two sons. Very Good In Slightly Worn Dustjacket. Bookseller Inventory # 8005
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