Saturday, December 29, 2007

Irvin Faust, Roar Lion Roar

In the early 1960s, Verlin Cassill urged us all to read Irvin Faust's "Roar Lion Roar" when it was new and about to become the title piece of a collection published in 1964. That story has stuck with me for decades, rooted even deeper when Faust began submitting stories to The Literary Review, which I've edited for many years. His latest, "Scott Fitzgerald Has Left the Garden of Allah," will be out in the Winter 2008 issue. Even though decades had passed since I first encountered Faust's distinct voice, being his editor reminded me of the adolescent fantasies of his teenaged protagonists. In my case, I was struck by the irony of realizing a daydream I never even thought to have in my early twenties. But his Roar Lion Roar characters lack the distance from their lives required for such irony. They are immersed in their fantasies, out of touch with their actual circumstances.

Morty in the opening story, "Philco Baby," works as a stock boy performing detached duties while fixated on the world that emerges day and night from the speakers of his portable radio, comforted by the familiar voices of disk jockeys and pop singers, at ease with the products around him because he can identify them by brand names. Ishmael, the young Puerto Rican displaced in New York in the final title story, finds his identity through the illusion that he is part of Columbia – getting a job in the university gym's boiler room, buying a blue Columbia jacket, and ultimately rooting for the university's hapless football team, the Lions. Faust captures his voice and the totality of his obsession with precision and compassion.

Roar Lion Roar is out of print. But, as of today, 67 copies are available via Abebooks.com, a paperback for as little as a dollar, a pristine hardcover edition for more than one hundred. I paid 60 cents for mine, but that was long ago. I've been fortunate to have owned it for so many years.

Walter Cummins


3 comments:

galoux said...

Thank you for this post. I encountered "Philco Baby" in 1967 or thereabouts, in Lee Wright's collection These Will Chill You. (I understand it's also in a Schulman anthology called The Loners.) I didn't know of Roar Lion Roar until today, but perhaps I will be one of those lucky abebooks shoppers.

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