Out of This World Review

by Paul Stuewe

[from Quill and Quire, March 1988]

Swift's growing reputation in the U.K. was signalled by the appearance in 1983 of his previous novel, Waterland, on that year's Booker Prize shortlist. Out of This World, however, turns out to be a rather earth-bound effort. Neither its dual narrative structure -- one narrator attempting to be ultra-rational and the other playing at being insane -- not its story of unloving gathers and emotionally starved children can compensate for the fact that its characters are a sadly spiritless and uninteresting lot. Though perhaps Swift's intention, this produces merely a vaguely troubling atmosphere rather than any insight into why his dramatis personae appear to be sleep-walking instead of living. A few writers -- Kafka, most obviously -- can extract psychological tension from the most prosaic circumstances, but Out of This World suggests that Swift is not yet among their number.

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