Although Wodicka turns up a provocative thought here and there, this musing, typical of Burt’s [the main character, a man who believes he should have been born in the Middle Ages and spends his life as a re-enactor] grief-laden vaporousness, serves also to illustrate the artless, wordy and underarticulated writing that makes “All Shall Be Well” such a Black Death of a chore to read [ouch!]. Wodicka has chosen a narrative voice too depressive and portentous to manifest his ingenuity. For all Burt’s colorful eccentricity, he’s a vague protagonist whose motives, actions and responses are only intermittently clear. In the basement of a Prague nightclub, after his son’s band noisily covers Hildegard’s “Columba aspexit — Sequentia de Sancto Maximino,” Burt is overwhelmed by emotion, but we’re unsure exactly which emotions are doing the overwhelming. Nor does Wodicka manage to explain why the Middle Ages, with their brutality, ignorance and poverty, were so much fun, as opposed, let’s say, to the Dark Ages.
To that last line I can add only an inarticulate interjection (Ugh). It does seem to me that Kalfus has missed something important about Wodicka: his sense of humor. An electronic jazz band covering Hildegard? Temporal promiscuity at its finest.
Wodicka's verbose title is taken from Julian of Norwich -- what could be more rolicking than that? The book's protagonist is a man who believes he was born OOP (Out of Period: at the wrong time). A great line from the review reads: "Although Wodicka offers a cursory summary of Burt’s childhood in a religious orphanage, asking why Burt believes he was born in the wrong time is as unproductive as inquiring why a transgendered individual believes he was born in the wrong sex." Reminds me of a line in the introduction to Fradenburg and Freccero's Premodern Sexualities about temporal cross-dressing.