Synopses & Reviews
A contemporary version of Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain, Curtis White's new novel begins with Mann's "unassuming young man," Hans Castorp, visiting his cousin at a health retreat. In this book though, the retreat is a spa for recovering alcoholics, totally unlike all other rehab centers. Rather than encouraging their patients to free themselves of their addiction, the directors of The Elixir believe that sobriety isn't for everyone, that you must let alcohol work its way on you. Filled with many compelling, outrageous, and comic voices, White's novel is disturbing, charming, and biting. It is about a weird and unlikely world that, nevertheless, is quite recognizable as our own.
"White's (Requiem) blandiose pastiche of Thomas Mann's famous novel throws Mann's protagonist, the young German engineer Hans Castorp, into central Illinois and the 21st century. White's Castorp, recently graduated with a degree in industrial psychology, has two weeks before he starts work at the Caterpillar Company of Peoria. Castorp's aunt beseeches him to check on his alcoholic cousin, Ricky, who's doing time at the Elixir, a state-supported 'recovery spa' located among hills 'formed by the slag heaps left behind by a now-vanished coal industry.' The setup, including a chummy omniscient narrator, is perfect for sardonic social satire, and that's what we get: Castorp's visitor quarters at the Elixir are in a garish building that formerly housed a Daffy Duck's Chicken franchise; Teddy, an impudent alcoholic child, hilariously impugns him as a fatuous bleeding-heart liberal; and prim and righteous clinic leader Rev. Phenues Boyle offers magniloquent discourses on 'Family Ritual' and the inalienable rights of fathers. When Hans encounters Cecile, a sultry, middle-aged former CPA, the narrative and the humor deteriorate. Sexual and scatological anecdotes begin to irritate, and the fate of Castorp who acquires a thirst for liquor and ends up staying at the Elixir much, much longer than anticipated is unconvincing. One only wishes that, like Mann, White had devoted more space to the full development of his usually scabrous and magnetic wit." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)