Aping His Inferiors

Bruno Littlemore is an American ape, Chicago born—and if you don’t hear the affinity between this “first-generation immigrant to the human species” and Augie March, Alexander Portnoy, and all the other lusty, fast-talking strivers of postwar American literature, then you haven’t spent as much time in the libraries of Hyde Park as he has. Bruno has the autodidact’s fondness for the ostentatious literary reference, and never simply suffers insomnia when the “red-eyed monster of sleeplessness” can drive Hypnos from his bed. In the first forty pages alone, we get references to Thoreau, Freud, Cézanne, Woyzeck, Kafka, and Artaud. When a researcher dangles a Prufrockian peach as reward in a scientific experiment, you can be sure that Bruno will dare to eat his allusion and have it too.

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