Theodore and Mrs. Natalie Augden.nclose friends of Lionel’s parents and hisnhosts in Debrakot. live in the shadownof their pan British ancestry and whollynBritish upbringing. The venerable “tornnbetween two cultures” theme is noisilynraised and then allowed to drift awav.n’A short first novel of unusual and exquisite quality.”nent juvenile. For example. Mrs. Xatalien.•ugden’s monotonous girlhood remmiscencesnare rendered in Alter s falsettonvoice:nTor Christmas Daddv brought me andoll from Calcutta. It wasn’t like thenEnglish girl’s. It had a wooden head.n-The New Yorkern”An important first novel with rich images, full characters, and a substantialntheme.”n—-library Journaln”Neglected Lives is a lovely book; I salute its author.”n—Peter S. Prescott in NetvstveeknThat’s the good part.nThe two cultures Alter describes —nthree when the Moslems turn up—becomenunder his hand less than one, andnthat not of the fascinating East. InnAnglo-Indian Debrakot he creates anmock Winnetka or Scarsdale. It’s liquornand libido—just as in the searing novelisticnindictments of American suburbianpopular one and two decades ago. NeglectednLives has almost everything innthis regard: Mrs. Natalie Augden contemplatingnseduction of Lionel: GeneralnTeddy Augden suspecting that he isnLionel’s real father: Natalie’s violationnwhen still in her teens by a young Britishnofficial (counterpart in American fiction:nrich college boy); Teddy’s humiliationnby a British officer (Americanncounterpart: rich college boy): Salim,nLionel’s eccentric fat friend (Americanncounterpart: eccentric fat friend); and,njust as in American novels, strange andntiring dream or hallucination sequencesn(it’s not always made clear which). “Annexotic world filled with life and color”nsays one obscure commentator quotednon the back of the book’s jacket; “atnonce strange, appealing, and colorfullynhuman” counters another.nTo approach this strangely familiarnexotic world Alter uses the narrativengambit most certain to fail—alternatingnfirst person monologue. It is the SpoonnRiver Anthology as retold by a despond-n14nChronicles of Culturenwith painted black hair. It was fat. Thenclothes it wore were pale and aglv. Itnwasn’t soft or warm, like I imagined thenother doll was. I was angry with it andnrefused to hold it. Mother sat it in mynchair at the dinner table. I threw it ontonthe floor. Mother spanked me and sentnme to my room. She left me alone in mvnroom and put thedoU next to me on mynbed. I threw it off after she went out.nI lay there crying, listening to themneating dinner and laughing…”nSpoken aloud in a high voice and pronouncednAnglo-Indian accent, with anlong breath at the end of each clause, thisnpassage is perhaps a convincing representationnof how young Natalie might haventalked. The section represents one seventhnof Alter s “doll sequence.” and thatnabout one-one hundredth of the novel.nExperienced readers will wondernwhether this doll sequence is longernthan the one which opens Colleen Mc-nCuUough’s The Thorn Birds, how itndiffers from Louisa May Alcott’s or EdnanFerber’s treatment of doll materials—nand what to make of its obvious racism.nAlter’s version of how children speaknevidently derives from considerablenstudy of elementary school reading texts.nThe overall technique of matching narrativenstyle to character he perhaps getsnfrom James Joyce.nWhat could be called the moment ofnepiphany in Neglected Lives comesnnnwhen, on a hunting jaunt. General Augdennsuddenly turns his carbine on Lionelnand begins shooting. One wonders atnfirst whether this is not another one ofnthe novel’s dream sequences, but—notnso—all the characters are awake. Alternhas prepared the reader for the General’snbehavior with an earlier mentionnof rogue elephants on senile rampages.nAfter 147 pages, an end to the novelnand its hero finally seems in prospect.nBut that is not to be. The general isnburied in a fortuitous rock slide andndies, not Lionel. One senses an opportunitynmissed. Thirtv pages later thennovel does terminate. Lionel has takennSylvia as his lawful wife. Constructionnhas begun on the new road to Debrakot.nThe series of meaningless episodes hasncome to an end. The enigma of thenAnglo-Indians remains.nN orman Kotker’s Miss Rhode remains. D. Keith Mano wrotena rave review of this book in the Decembern8 issue of National Review.nGranting that every writer’s style isnunique—as with snowflakes—there’s annotable similarity in the approaches ofnMano and Kotker. They both write inna style that’s intensely —almost gaudilyn—clever, closely worked and yet quicklynmoving. One immediate difference isn”Norman Kotker has written annelegant novel . . . almost elegiacnintone.’n—The New Republicnthat while Mano employs every devicenof punctuation, Kotker is infatuatednwith the full stop. A Kotker paragraphnhas the look of a skin-care product advertisement:nThree word sentences.nAnd four word sentences. And verblessnfive word sentences. Or. Just. A. Series.nOf. One. ‘Word. Sentences.nAs a vehicle for his talent in describingnlovely young complexions in sentencesnof one word or more, Kotker hasnfound the perfect story in this accountnof a ‘Wellesley College girl who inad-n