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Harry Mathews

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To purchase Tlooth

Title: Tlooth
Author: Harry Mathews
Genre: Novel
Written: 1966
Length: 176 pages
Availability: Tlooth - US
Tlooth - UK
Tlooth - Canada
Zlahn - Deutschland
  • Translated into French by Georges Perec (Les Verts Champs de moutarde de l'Afghanistan, 1975)

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Our Assessment:

B- : clever, but a bit too far flung

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
American Book Review . 7-8/1999 Brain Evenson
Harper's . 11/1966 Roderick Cook
The NY Times Book Rev. B- 30/10/1966 Peter Buitenhuis
Saturday Review . 12/11/1966 Granville Hicks

  From the Reviews:
  • "Tlooth, in spite of its creative experimentalism and its radical assault on reality (things are simply never what they seem), often loses the sustained interest required to make sense of its elusive complexity." - Peter Buitenhuis, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The marvelously titled Tlooth takes its narrator from baseball games in a Siberian labour-camp named Jacksongrad across much of Asia and Europe in a story of escape and vengeance. This is not realistic satire, political commentary, or dystopic fiction. Mathews' book centers around the absurd -- while relating it in a controlled and calm style that belies the underlying incongruities.
       The camp where the story commences is divided into sectarian groups: Fiedeists, Americanists, Defective Baptists, among others. The narrator is a dental assistant -- a job the she is particularly suited for, having only three fingers on one hand, making it easier to maneuver inside a patient's mouth. She had lost her other digits to a criminal surgeon, Evelyn Roak -- the object of her vengeance.
       The camp is escaped from, and much of the world traversed. There are adventures, puzzles, musical interludes, diverse ailments, a world seen, opportunities missed. The escape and the chase take the narrator to Afghanistan, India, Italy and elsewhere.
       Mathews delights in and with invention, and he does not disappoint in the small episodes that make the novel. Unfortunately the narrative thread is not quite as sturdy as one might like. The story hops and skips. It does not flow smoothly. The absurdities are enjoyable, but put together they still do not quite a novel make.
       An enjoyable entertainment, but not completely convincing.

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Tlooth: Reviews: Harry Mathews: OuLiPo: Other Books by Harry Mathews under Review Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Oulipo books under review
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction

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About the Author:

       American author Harry Mathews was born in 1930. He graduated from Harvard. In 1952 he moved to Paris, becoming a member of the OuLiPo in the early 1970s.

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