Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review: Larque on the Wing

A Fair Trade Book



Title: Larque on the Wing

Author: Nancy Springer

Author's web site: http://www.nancyspringer.com/

(What's the deal with the main character's eyes? Discussed in the novel, a nonfiction, philosophical explanation appears at http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/7062039-don-t-eye-wish .)

Date: 1994

Publisher: Avon

ISBN: 0-688-13175-1

Length: 277 pages

Quote: “Mother used to call it change of life, but Larque never expected to change quite so much.”

Have you ever tried to imagine a world where the psychological processes C.G. Jung described could literally happen? The simplest way to describe Larque on the Wing is to say that it’s a novel about that sort of world. Larque feels freaky because she generates visible, usually shadowy “doppelgangers” of aspects of people’s psyches, but when a doppelganger of her frustrated inner ten-year-old becomes a pest in her home, we see that the gift for bringing Jungian psychological processes to life runs in her family. Larque’s mother can blink away undesirable aspects of people’s psyches and remodel people into the aspects of them she prefers to deal with; her father’s boyfriend can give anyone a total makeover—size, shape, color, age, apparent sex,  and personality.

Larque’s midlife crisis is messy because she and her husband have been getting along tolerably well, in their run-down bodies and run-down house, by forgetting about Larque’s weird parents, useless brother, and frustrated inner child. Around age forty Larque…doesn’t consciously decide, in the reality of the novel, to reintegrate her personality, so much as she “has a hot flash and out pops” the deliberately obnoxious ten-year-old Sky. 

(All the characters talk in a “liberated,” raunchy manner; hot flashes are among the more tasteful references to body parts and functions this web site doesn’t mention. There are also generous dollops of profanity. In the early 1990s, as in the 1980s, dirty jokes were many people’s idea of goodhearted jokes that didn’t particularly insult anybody.)

Then all wacky comedy breaks loose as Sky leads Larque to “Popular Street,” a mostly imaginary row in a bad neighborhood where Larque’s father and his boyfriend Shadow live out their “gayest” fantasies. The hub of Popular Street is the Magic Makeover shop where Larque has herself reshaped into a young man called Lark; Lark still has Larque’s feelings toward Larque’s husband, who is not interested in Lark; Larque’s best female friend is attracted to Lark, who is not interested in her; Lark could have a real fling with Shadow, but doesn’t, because each of the two handsome young men really loves “his” original mate too much, and/or because what Larque knows about her father's boyfriend consists so much of Larque's own "shadow self."

But Larque’s reconnection with her father attracts her mother’s attention, and everybody starts getting blink-makeovers they don’t want, and more doppelgangers float around, most annoyingly including Larque’s mother’s ideal of Larque as the Virtuous Wife who is (among other things) fat. While Larque/Lark is hanging out with her father, learning to appreciate his boyfriend and dragging them along on a camping trip with Sky, the Virtuous Wife is picketing Popular Street and demanding that its “degeneracy” be flushed out of a town where there’s some question whether it actually exists anyway. (Larque reaches Popular Street by doppelgangering it from some vague memory of the real place where her father’s new friends’ woman-hating is more serious.)

As a Christian with a liberal education, I particularly relished the detail that Larque’s mother is not a Moral Majority Protestant. She’s a lapsed Catholic who’s gone through Wiccan and Buddhist phases and is now seeking “salvation” through a radically yucky diet. She doesn’t quote the Bible about her ex-husband’s relatively stable homosexual lifestyle. She’s simply vindictive—not noticeably angry, just very very vindictive—about having been dumped for a young man with psychic gifts similar to but greater than her own. Anybody would be, but Larque’s mother and “Virtuous Wife” doppelganger are ridiculous about it…

Let’s just say that when Larque finally pulls herself together, a lot of things, including her mother’s celebration of her mother’s “secondary virginity” and the centerpiece of the main table, fall apart.

Springer first caught my attention with a group of Jungian novels to which Larque on the Wing belongs. The Hex Witch of Seldom, Apocalypse, and Fair Peril aren’t really a series or sequence since each stands alone; they’re just some of the twentieth century’s wackiest, funniest stories. And of course each contains some Truths, although the Truths aren’t new. Witch, a story about a teenager who rescues a strange, wild horse and decides not to try to make a pet of him, is my favorite but they’re all delicious reads.

All four of Springer's early Jungian novels are delightful reads for sophisticated women. Children probably won't like them and should stick to this author's kid-friendly, real-world horse and mystery novels, which can be purchased new from her web site. The twentieth century Jungian quartet are available as Fair Trade Books, as are some of Springer's earlier children's stories like Colt (also reviewed at this web site) and Not on a White Horse (sort of a real-world version of the plot of Witch). Four of these books (maybe more) will fit into one package, and they're available on this site's usual terms: $5 per book, $5 per package ($25 if you buy four from this web site), plus $1 per online payment, from which we will send $1 per book to Springer or a charity of her choice.