Richard Condon | Critical Review by John Skow

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Richard Condon.
This section contains 515 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by John Skow

SOURCE: "Mafioso," in Time, Vol. 128, No. 12, September 22, 1986, p. 95.

In the following review, Skow comments on the characters of Prizzi's Family.

"Prequel" is one of those smarmy coinages, like "brunch," that make a self-respecting user of language want to wash his mouth out with whisky. Brunch can be avoided by not getting out of bed before noon on Sundays, but prequel—ptui!—probably is inevitable for works such as Richard Condon's rowdy new novel, a report on the formative years of the author's lovable but dumb Mafia assassin Charley Partanna.

Condon's book [Prizzi's Family] is not so stirring an achievement as to be inevitable, but it is cheerful and funny, and no effort should be made to avoid it. Charley, of course, is the hero of Prizzi's Honor, the 1982 Condon novel that Director John Huston turned into one of Jack Nicholson's better films. There Charley was seen at mid-life, and his crisis was that his wife (Kathleen Turner in the film) turned out to be not only a Mob hit woman but a boodler who tried to grab some Mafia loot. Wistfully but dutifully, Charley killed her, after she was set up by his old and still smoldering sweetheart Maerose Prizzi (Anjelica Huston).

The new novel precedes Honor by a few years and more or less explains Charley's problem: he is girl-simple, as his associates accurately put it. He could be content with living the good life as a respected professional man, blasting some slob with an assault rifle here, acing out several losers with cyanide grenades there, and studying hard for his high school diploma at night school, where he earns the respect of all and is voted secretary-treasurer of his class.

Instead he becomes involved, in the manner of horsemeat becoming involved with lions, with a jumbo showgirl named Mardell and with the volcanic Maerose. "It was like being locked in a mailbag with eleven boa constrictors … His head came to a point where it suddenly melted and flopped all over his shoulders and out all over the bed. His toes fell off." This is sex with Maerose—all very well, except that she is the granddaughter of Don Corrado Prizzi, a Mafia eminence not to be messed with.

Complications ensue like crazy. One of them is a candidate for the New York City mayoralty, who made his pile in the TV tabernacle dodge. He is an out-of-towner, really, who does not understand how things work in New York, and he wants to have Charley indicted for his sixth-to-lastmurder. Maerose, a more serious troublemaker, wants to take over her grandfather's operation. As usual with the author's recent entertainments, the fact that none of this makes much sense becomes a literary metaphor on the order of Melville's white whale, implying as it does that the entire world is nuts. This is clearly Condon's view, and he is mightily persuasive as he defines human character: foaming perversity, rascality, obsessional lunacy, wowserism, religious mania, assault and battery, and our old friends greed and lust. No sloth, though, Charley and his chums sure do keep active.

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This section contains 515 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by John Skow
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