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Kisses of the Enemy


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Australian writer Hall's latest book to appear in America is a stunning tour de force. When Bernard Buchanan, real-estate agent turned politician, barters vast uninhabited tracts to be used by a sinister, anonymous multinational company in exchange for the presidency of Australia, that open, friendly society mutates into a horrendous Orwellian state where people spy on each other, and ``guest workers'' (immigrants) are shipped off to work camps ``for their own protection.'' As the state becomes more self-propagating, Buchanan grows so huge that he cannot see the ground and must be carried even to the bathroom by six aides, while he declaims: ``I am the State.'' By now, he is infested by mice that gnaw at his entrailsbut at least, he thinks, he is feeling something. Eventually, his sensitive, enigmatic wife Dorina, who lives separately, is inspired by disgust for Buchanan to provoke, in an uncharacteristic move, a ``showdown''enough has been enough. These are the bare bones of Hall's plot; this rich, challenging tale of power and corruption, filled with memorable vignettes, is told with the art, vigor, wit and poetry that we expect from him. Yet Kisses is so unlike Just Relations and Captivity Captive , particularly in length and range, that the reader has the unexpected joy of discovering a new Rodney Hall. His reputation in the U.S. as a uniquely gifted, intelligent and original storyteller grows with each book. (Nov.)

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