Sunday, 22 February 2015

I want to thank you both for waiting for me to finish my new favorite Rohmer, Caged Eagle.

It’s so fantastically haphazard.  The other books were full of loose ends, but none them were so crazily disjointed.  Rohmer clearly keeps getting new ideas about what his book is about, ideas that should make him go back and start rewriting everything, but he doesn’t.  He adds them and moves on.

Page one: He tells you he’s writing this in prison with a pencil because he’s old fashioned. Page two, he tells you he’s writing it from notes he’s already dictated into a tape recorder.  Page three through page 250 of Caged Eagle are written in the third person.

Including a 50 page mistaken identity fake out about Gator being dead that – as you guys have already noted – doesn’t work at all, because Gator is telling the story.

A lesser writer would have revised.

A sexy nurse tells Gator she’s having his baby in 1944, and then we hear she had a miscarriage, and then we hear that Gator has another entirely different mystery heir, by another mistress.  How does this mystery heir –a brilliant nuclear physicist -- figure into the denouement?  As it turns out, not at all.

What about the horny lawyers?  We hear a lot about how horny they are, and how they think Julie is going to be yucky, but then she’s hot.  So?  So nothing.

How did Louise get to be a senator?

Gator doesn’t let on that his dad is a lawyer.  Then he reveals that his dad is a lawyer.  And? And, well, yeah.

When Louise shocks her party by endorsing the Strategic Defense Initiative (never mentioned before or after page 210) how is that supposed to figure into how we feel about her?

We’re told that Mr. Foster is on his honeymoon maybe a dozen times. What difference does that make to the story? None.  Mr. Foster doesn’t like Louise.  What does this foreshadow? Nothing.

A daughter – at least I think this is what the second half of the book is about -- fights her father for the control of the greatest fortune in Canada.  Then, in a paragraph, they agree to split everything 60/40... we now return to our battlefield murder mystery.

It has the logic of a daydream.  You want a third twist ending, where it turns out it’s all happening in Gator’s mind in 1944, at the instant of his death. 

“That big guy stole my girl… but what if I used my secret boxing skills to beat the shit out of him… and then used my incredible flying stills to kill him… and then she told me she never loved him, because I’m hung like a V-2 and he’s not… and then I married her… and he turned out to be the richest guy in Canada…”

I’d put it up there with Retaliation. 

If it wasn’t such a catastrophe it could be Canada’s Gatsby.

A sleepy old businessman looks out the window of his plane and dreams.


  1. A lesser writer would have revised. And a lesser publisher would've rejected the thing outright.

    So, here's to Creative Book Publishing and its Killick imprint, through which "the company pursues exceptional literary material which assists it in fulfilling its cultural mandate."

    What's more, they were bold enough to add it to a list that features feminist literature as a focus.

    Caged Eagle might just be the most misogynist work of fiction I've ever read.

    To quote Chris in yesterday's post, "Julie Roberts is a hideous wizened slattern who’s better off dead. (How many times does Rohmer tell us she smokes? 50?)"

    How many times is Louise referred to as a bitch? 50? Everyone thinks so. Everyone uses that very word to describe her.


    Because she's a bossy boss.

    Oh, yeah, and she doesn't get along with the man who treated her mother badly and murdered her father. And let's not forget that she sued for her inheritance. Bitch. She's a serial monogamist, you know. Bitch.

    My problem with Louise is her endorsement of the Strategic Defense Initiative. It was so unexpected! Purpose? I don't know. Party loyalty? It sure meant a lot to the assembled newspapermen scribbling furiously on notepads. I imagine that at least one ran to a pay phone to relay the news to Walter Burns at The Morning Post.

    I was against SDI myself, so… Bitch.

    How did Louise get to be a senator, anyway?

  2. I wondered the same thing, Brian. How are we supposed to feel about Louise and Julie? If Gator is evil, is Louise okay? She does support SDI. The constant bitch stuff was weird all right. Given that Rohmer's daughter is a sort of prominent public figure. Once Rohmer says here's a picture of Gator and the next page is a picture of Rohmer, it all starts getting pretty unpleasantly Updike / Bech.

    And you wonder -- since Rohmer says the book is Gator's memoir, before switching to an omniscient narrator who knows things Gator couldn't possibly know, from scene after scene after scene where Gator isn't present -- is this Gator's version of things?

    The book's fixation with Julie's smoking could be a joke on Gator being a lunatic, except that Rohmer's other doppelgänger, Arthur Henry Ward Jr., also walks around purple with rage about smokers.

    Mirrors within mirrors. Rohmer/Gator/Ward... what does it all mean? Where does it all end?

    1. It goes without saying that Gator is an unreliable narrator, but this has everything to do with slapdash composition. This isn't The Turn of the Screw - repeated readings won't enlighten.

      There's no more evangelical non-smoker than a converted non-smoker - and Richard Rohmer used to smoke ninety cigarettes a day (Generally Speaking, p. 72). The smokers in his fiction are either villains, bitches or idiots. The exceptions are Carnarvon and selected Fathers of Confederation. Like Rohmer during World War II, they didn't know any better.

      Rohmer, Gator, Ward, where does it all end?

      I don't know. In playing dress up?