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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Ann Quin

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To purchase Tripticks

Title: Tripticks
Author: Ann Quin
Genre: Novel
Written: 1972
Length: 192 pages
Availability: Tripticks - US
Tripticks - UK
Tripticks - Canada
  • With illustrations by Carol Annand

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Our Assessment:

B+ : sprightly, entertaining

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New Statesman . 16/6/1972 .
The Observer . 30/4/1972 .
TLS . 5/5/1972 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The technique, which must be even more laborious to employ than it is to interpret, cannot perform what it aims at. The thing is still physically a book, we must stil turn over its pages, we still have to remember from one page to the next what has accumulated. The effort of doing so through the thickets of frustration that the method and layout interpose is too much, and draws fatal attention to the powerful underlying humourlessness of the whole thing." - Times Literary Supplement

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:

       Tripticks is narrated by a man on the run in the American wasteland of the 1970s. He is pursued by his first ex-wife ("and her schoolboy gigolo") in something that isn't quite a chase. It is a novel of trips, of ticks, tripartite lives -- the narrator had a trio of wives -- : triptychs and tripticks, in other words.
       The novel is narrated in an easy, flowing style. It is, in part, 'experimental' -- with descriptive lists rather than full-blown exposition, an epistolary selection, and the interposition of often cartoon-like illustrations. Despite this, and some abrupt twists and turns along the narrative way, Tripticks reads very well. It is part reminiscence, part easygoing rant. As one correspondent pegs the narrator: "Why is it that you always manifest the light side of a Shakespearian clown who has read Reich ?" It's a fairly winning tone, most of the way.
       There is a fill of odd characters, especially the narrator's first set of well-to-do in-laws. There are also the demanding wives, with whom he can not maintain very satisfactory relationships -- though he's willing to give pretty much anything a go.
       America is also central to the novel: the wide expanses, the loose ties between people, the commercialism, the demand for immediate gratification. Much of it is also a cartoon world -- "I thought in terms of cartoons", the narrator acknowledges -- and in this book there literally are such cartoons, here by Carol Annand. (Marvel -- or Disney -- comics they ain't.)
       "Independence of expression has now become almost unthinkable", the narrator notes early on, but he does his best to live a free, expressive life -- and comes as close as one might in this particular place and era.
       It's fairly clever stuff, and entertaining too. Only occasionally are there lapses into too explicit sententiousness, as when an X-wife diagnoses:

You are so often like the kid walking up an escalator that's going down, and it seems to me that you dream incessantly of some dramatic Lourdes where the healing miracle of instant greatness will occur, and you live in a fantasy world like Disneyland - a tidy mini-world which works on paper just like it is supposed to but once you start living in the real world you make it seem like a befouled, tense and faltering civilization.
       Most of the time there's no need for so much explanation: the episodes themselves and the narrator's comments and asides are clear enough. Still, it is hardly a fault, balanced by a great deal else that is nowhere as serious. Altogether Quin has fashioned a novel that works very well.

       An enjoyable read.

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Tripticks: Reviews: Ann Quin:
  • See the complete review's Ann Quin page
Other books by Ann Quin under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       English author Ann Quin (1936-1973) published four novels. She won a D.H.Lawrence Fellowship as well as a Harkness fellowship.

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