The Book of Changes, a review

The company Mitch keeps is brilliant, arrogant January 6, 2016
What is born from a nine-month gestation at Cal, Berkeley? A medievalist? A poet? A biologist? What is Mitch studying? Before we hit the midpoint of Jack Remick’s The Book of Changes (Book Three of the California Quartet), the reader cannot be faulted for believing Mitch is studying how to fit the most sex into the least time. But once we pass the midpoint, the reader sees Death wants equal time, and Mitch might be studying the many ways humans meet their ends. The wonder is that Mitch stays at school after witnessing any one of those tragic/horrific deaths. Drugs, rock and roll, political protests, many fancy and familiar smokes, motorcycles, and the most erudite friends a boy could ever want also fill Mitch’s college days. The company Mitch keeps is brilliant, arrogant, scofflaw. For example, his friends write papers for their private education, over and above assignments from their classes. Mitch, “Beast,” like Eddie Iturbi of The Deification (Book One of The California Quartet), wants to be a poet. When he learns he has to bleed, in part from a cameo by Eddie, he abandons the idea. Until Eddie’s reappearance in the quartet, we can believe the story might happen—it is full of Cal campus landmarks and local street names, mentions of Grace Slick and Camel cigarettes—but Eddie brings myth in his wake. He lives in the swirl of it, so when he is on deck, magical blood-let poems materialize from his veins. The reader is reminded to shake off conventional standards–Remick shapes his novels around mythic cores. Nine months may host several life-times’ worth of experience rolled into one. A college campus may also be a medieval landscape peopled with vassals and knights. And a 9-1-1 call may be a slippery message between here and the other side.

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