Reinhart as Hero and Clown

By Weales, Gerald | Hollins Critic, December 1983 | Go to article overview

Reinhart as Hero and Clown


Weales, Gerald, Hollins Critic


I

Carlo Reinhart, like his creator Thomas Berger, was born in 1924 of German-American parents in or near Cincinnati, Ohio. Like Berger, Reinhart served in the army during the second world war and, home again, took advantage of the GI Bill of Rights to go back to college although, unlike Berger, he never graduated. There are probably a great many other similarities between author and character including certain attitudes, habits of mind, a preoccupation with the paraphernalia of daily living. Reinhart's eye for detail is evident in Berger's non-Reinhart novels, and both the ruins in which he sets his sexual/social fantasy Regiment of Women (1973) and the small indignities that beset the hero of his private-eye burlesque Who Is Teddy Villanova? (1977) reflect a continuing response to surroundings that he had already characterized in Crazy in Berlin (1958): "What was extraordinary was that America could be so ugly-dull." Berger, like Reinhart, is concerned with the dangerous uncertainty of human relationships, familial, sexual, collegial, with the problem of identity, with the slipperiness of truth, with the inefficacy of language, with the authoritarianism of self-righteous idealism, with aging and death, but, like Reinhart, he can easily be distracted by the petty annoyances of restaurant decor, advertising slogans, television programing. The quotation above is presumably Reinhart's insight, brought on by a juxtaposition of a remembered Ohio and the Europe in which he finds himself, but the accompanying list of negative (and cliched) responses to the surface of American life go beyond Reinhart's experience. Faced with some phenomena, Berger and Reinhart work as a double, but sometimes Berger seems to elbow Reinhart offstage as in the lengthy and gratuitous parody of a Scandinavian art film in Vital Parts (1970) or the description of a ladies' magazine story in Reinhart in love (1962), a routine joke lacking both the vigor and the dramatic force that Tennessee Williams gave it in The Glass Menagerie.

Carlo Reinhart was born, after all, not in 1924, but when Thomas Berger first put the character on paper. Whatever autobiographical elements, statistical and spiritual, go into the Reinhart novels, the creator and the created are not one, as the slippage cited above indicates. "I write to amuse and conceal myself," Berger said in Contemporary Novelists, amusing and concealing himself in the comment. I have no inclination to search out the hidden Berger in the Reinhart saga. There is an obvious tactical value in the author's sharing age and background with his protagonist; he is better able to understand his character's responses to new ideas and new modes of behavior, even when and if those responses are not precisely his. This is particularly true of the last two novels, in which Reinhart catches up with Berger, for the publication dates of Vital Parts and Reinhart's Women (1981) follow within a year or two the time of the events they recount. In the first two novels, Berger is writing in the late 1950s, early 1960s of Reinhart in the immediate postwar 1940s. It is not Reinhart as Berger, then, that interests me here--or that interests most readers, I assume--except to the extent that that identification is an instance of Reinhart as all of us. Often as infuriating as he is likable, Reinhart has a way of voicing, silently for the most part, prejudices that we pretend to have put behind us and of performing with an ineptitude to which we are clearly superior--on our good days. "You are a fool, a good fool, a kind fool," Lori Bach tells Reinhart in Crazy in Berlin, and twenty years later in Vital Parts his own accusing inner voice says, "You're still the same old horse's ass." The strength of the Reinhart books is that the reader keeps recognizing his similarities to the good fool, the horse's ass, when he would prefer to identify with the poet-philosopher hero that Reinhart spends so many years imagining hidden within his untidy mind and body.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Reinhart as Hero and Clown
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.