It is the Rock Island Playland itself, however, which dominates the climax. One of the attractions, a staged version of the fall of the Alamo, proves only mildly amusing to the paying customers. But when the actors get carried away with their own acting and a real fight breaks out, the audience loves it. The same shocking result occurs when customers pretend to commit crimes. The game, instead of immunizing the players, merely whets their appetites. Meanwhile, in that Disneyland called America, other fallible human beings are busily stockpiling nuclear weapons. Playland is an original, but like other originals it can be read in a relevant context. One thinks of the movie, “Dr. Strangelove,” along with Catch-22 and other wild but successful combinations of humor and horror. Zigal also makes his original contribution to the pervasive contemporary interest in new forms of allegory. His Rock Island Playland is rich in suggested meanings that are unified by recurrent attention to the insidiousness of life in the American Playland. Readers who like novels that tell an interesting and significant story will like Playland. Readers who like to test fiction with analysis will also be pleased. Names, to mention a single example, are one of the many lower layers of meanings. Zaner is zanier than most. Virgilio, Virgil, is Sonny’s guide through the Hades of Playland. A nightclub named The Prometheus is thought to be a source of fire, or power, for wounded human beings. The initials of the Rock Island Playland are RIP, a play on Rest in Peace and rip-off. And the protagonist, being in flight from government officials, uses aliases: Neuman for the new man James becomes; Bernhardt for the hearts burned at Hiroshima and for sympathy; and Washburn, signalling the desire to wash or soothe the burns of atomic victims. Most important, I think, is the basic power of Playland. Zigal’s bizarre story is a comic yet frighteningly realistic insight into what may prove our last frontier: the prison-playland-prison that becomes a human fiasco in a Disneyland nightmare on the shores of California.D POEMS BY PAUL CHRISTENSEN The Hermitage garden is a ghost of nuns; the altar scorched with sacrifice. High vaults, dry wombs; rocks as hard as clenched thighs. But the trees sway on roots, fingering their branches, holding fat-bellied birds up over the muddy pond. Bee drone; bugs crawling on green spines; the earth-suck in sloped garden haunts. Above all soars the wide arc and curvature of hymn stones, roof of prayers, where knees rubbed cotton habits raw; those sturdy veins. The sky is now a mind of stars; as sun rims all in doubt, in melted dreams, ambitions. Soft shape of heat, undersides, the drip, drip, drip where bones stood, coldly praying. Paul Christensen teaches in the English dept. at Texas A&M University. I threw the rock and watched if in the air; whispering, don’t come back! I saw it shudder and hang, as long as it could, against blue air, and forget for a moment it was all rock, and start to fly, those dull wings rounded on it sides, the hopefulness and twinkle behind shut eyes, and a mind, slow glitter, think for a moment of escape, the upward, muscular heave of lungless breath, the grasp of no arms for a branch of sun, anything to hoist itself up out of this desolate ocean of identity, only to be stung with the dread of what it was a rock, instead. It fell! thudding miserably through the air in which my whisper hung, don’t come back! 22 NOVEMBER 12, 1982
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.