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Times Praises Kluges New Novel

By August Steigmeyer

Saipan is a lot like Gambier for Writer in Residence P.F. Kluge.

Im willing to leave it but I can never believe that Im leaving it for good or forever, he said.

The tropical Pacific island is at the center of Kluges latest novel The Master Blaster, released today.

The book is a long, bewitching love letter to an utterly maddening place, according to an early review by Janet Maslin, published in The New York Times on March 25. Maslins review calls The Master Blaster stingingly funny.

When the [Times] review appeared, [it] was one of the 10 happiest days of my life, Kluge said. The worst fear that you have is not getting panned, thats painful, but you worry about silence more, just being ignored and shrugged off. And these days with publishers shrinking and bookstores closing, newspapers in trouble and cutting back on their own reviews, The New York Times is critically important.

The novel tells the intertwined stories of a jaded writer, a university professor on a trial separation from her husband, an elderly entrepreneur, a Bangladeshi laborer named Khan and the elements that brought them all to this island commonwealth.

Saipan has played a significant role in Kluges life ever since his first stay in 1967-69, when he was in the Peace Corps. They sent me to a small, obscure battleground island in the far Pacific, he said. I had two years there, and I somehow couldnt bear leaving without thinking that I would someday return.

Over the years, Kluge did return, several times. He has worked with politicians negotiating the future political status of the island, reported as a journalist, lectured on American novels and stopped by the island on his way to other places.

Its like an old girlfriend I can never bear to say goodbye to, Kluge said. So I felt the need to write about it, because you write about whatever life throws at you.

The Kenyon College Bookstore will host a reading and book signing with Kluge tonight at 7:30 p.m. Kluge will discuss the background of the book, its critical reception, why he wrote it and whether or not he succeeded.

Saipan has been part of my life, and I wanted to try to make a story about it, Kluge said. It seems to me to matter what happens on a small, turbulent Pacific island it matters, and if I can make that matter to other people, then Ill have succeeded.

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