How much Modernism deprived us of when it declared both the fantastic in fiction and the narrative in poetry unrespectable, and what a pleasure it is now to see the exiled witches and the forbidden rhymes return. Where can an evil Dean meet his doom more fitly than in terza rima? Lesley Wheeler’s brief novel of misbehavior in academia, subtle and funny, rashly inventive and perfectly realistic, uses all the forgotten powers of metaphor and poetry to make the mundane luminous.
-Ursula K. Le Guin
Lesley Wheeler’s The Receptionist is a delight. A stirring narrative of fantasy and derring-do, set in the ivy-clad towers and poky offices of modern academia, in which the warrior princess of an ancient line returns to the fray at last and summons ancient powers to defend the right. All told in technically assured terza rima cantos, full of ingenious rhythms. The forces of evil are all too recognizable, the bad guys satisfyingly bad and the good guys not too goody-goody. The infusion of classic children’s fantasy, and other bedtime folklore sources, is wonderful too. In the bonus package of shorter poems, “Zombie Thanksgiving” (T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land retold) is stunning, an absolute tour de force.
Tiptree Award Honor Book, available from Aqueduct Press and other booksellers.