Don Noble
2:05 pm
Mon February 16, 2004

Waiting For April

Waiting for April is Scott Morris's second novel. April is of a mixed nature, a tragi-comedy so to speak--as dark as rape and murder one minute and surprisingly funny the next.

Waiting For April

Waiting for April is Scott Morris's second novel. April is of a mixed nature, a tragi-comedy so to speak--as dark as rape and murder one minute and surprisingly funny the next.

The action is set in motion by the arrival of a mysterious and handsome stranger in the Florida Panhandle town of Citrus in the late 1960s.

Sanders Royce Collier is a young man of "unknown origins" who claims to be a decorated Vietnam War hero and the scion of a wealthy and distinguished South Carolina family. Sanders becomes acquainted with two beautiful girls in Citrus, June and her younger sister, April. They both love him madly, for he is the most exotic item this town has ever seen. He loves them both, marries June, and pursues April, who is irresistible.

Gandhi would pursue April. St. Paul would pursue April. Throughout the novel she is a force, an anima, the ultimate female.

Sanders, like Thomas Sutpen of Absalom, Absalom!, means to start a dynasty in Citrus. June and Sanders have a son, Roy, the speaker of this tale, and from page one the reader realizes that he, too, like every other male, will pursue April, fall in love with April, lust after April. One will forget, even, from time to time that April is Roy's aunt. Roy certainly forgets. This incestuous relationship will surely one day be consummated, but who knows where or when.

Meanwhile, not only is Sanders Collier's appearance in Citrus shrouded in mystery, so is his disappearance, when Roy is a small child. He is murdered, or at least shot to death by someone, but no one seems willing to talk about that either.

Roy, when he is not panting after his aunt, wants to know more about his father, and in time he does. The secrets of the past are revealed, layer after layer. He learns more about his dad from his uncle Leonard Collins, April's husband, who loves Roy and serves as a surrogate father to him, but keeps a suspicious eye on Roy's affection for April.

Another character in this saga is the obese Sterns Reel, who runs a bait shop, is a private aesthete and intellectual, and is writing a novel about all these events entitled, alternately, The Snows of Citrus Past or Buried Beneath the Snows of Citrus Past. There is, needless to say, not much snow ever in Citrus, Florida.

Sterns Reel will remind readers of Ignatius Reilly, the hero of A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. Sterns Reel writes about the craft of fiction and its frustrations: "If every day brings yet another denouement, then what's a denouement good for? If one never seems to reach the end of anything, but keeps returning over and over again to the same heart-wrenching struggles by way of the same nerve-rending stratagems, why go on?"

Morris might, or his editors might, have taken some of this advice to heart, as the novel could indeed stand some tightening up. But one can tell Morris loves every word in his book and will part with none.

And, admittedly, Morris is a fine writer, a highly literate, brainy poet of sorts who sees the beauty of language in the unusual and the everyday. He can describe landscape almost as well as Pat Conroy and he can hear the music in the ordinary. At Reel's bait shop Morris lists the names of fishing plugs: "Heddon's Bayou Boogie, Arbogast's Classic Jitterbug. Sputterbuzz, and Hula Popper. Frenzy Popper. Wounded Spook."

Morris has written an overly long but lush family story and finally almost all the secrets are known and almost everybody lives through it.

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