Horace Afoot, Frederick Reuss's genre-defying debut novel, is at once a compelling philosophical investigation into the nature of identity, a clever murder mystery, and a complex character study of one of the more prickly protagonists in recent fiction. Reuss's reluctant hero is a solitary philosophy junkie who calls himself Quintus Horatius Flaccus (after the Augustan poet) -- Horace, for short. Horace, like John Kennedy Toole's memorable misanthrope, Ignatius J. Reilly, is a man at odds with his time, a man who longs for total detachment but finds himself tugged again and again into worldly affairs by "circumstances, conventions, and a weakness for wanting to be good...." But when this eccentric, middle-aged loner settles in a small midwestern town seeking only the serenity of oblivion, he finds instead the adventure of his life.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Classical allusions leap garishly out of a drab minimalist landscape in this incongruous debut. Morbidly self-centered protagonist Horace (self-named after the Latin poet) has come to an anonymous town (self-named, no less pretentiously, Oblivion) in search of autarkeia, "the serenity of not caring." His main occupations are telephoning strangers, reading philosophy, drinking above-average wine, walking aimlessly to the regional airport, the factory of defense contractor Semantech and an Indian mount of indeterminate archeological significance. Horace (full name Quintus Horatius Flaccus) quickly achieves the reputation of an eccentric-about-town and unwillingly clashes with Oblivion's truculent sheriff and the neighborhood juvenile delinquent. Only slightly less reluctantly, he strikes up a reserved friendship with the terminally ill town librarian. Horace's withdrawn existence is ultimately compromised by Sylvia, Reuss's most attractive character. Sylvia is a blue-collar exemplar of unbuttoned emotions and casual sex, but even she can't save the novel as it meanders to an indifferent resolution of its protagonist's bios theoretikos.
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M P Publishing
December 28, 1998
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