While it seems unlikely that Russell Hoban will again write anything as memorable as Riddley Walker or his evergreen children’s books, his late run of novels (the seven books from 1999’s Angelica’s Grotto to this most recent one, My Tango with Barbara Strozzi) are among the most entertaining late works from any novelist. It’s interesting that the narrator of this book, a relatively unsuccessful writer named Phil Ockerman, mentions having given up on Woody Allen, because it’s the filmmaker’s last ten years of work that these novels most closely resemble; a series of entertainments that are so beguiling because its creator seems to have given up on profundity to concentrate instead on working as quickly as possible and amusing himself and his (diminishing, but still fanatical) audience. Both Allen and Hoban lay themselves open to charges of self-indulgence and inconsequentiality, but it seems unlikely this would bother either unduly.
Besides, Hoban gives the impression that he would be the first to own up to his weaknesses. His poor narrator writes boring books, the latest of which, Hope of a Tree, is criticised by several characters for its lack of dramatic action, dismissed as ‘a put-together thing trying to pass