Older, but not wiser

Many, many years ago, I read Spider Robinson’s tales about a fantastic bar on Long Island, run by Mike Callahan, that attracted an odd assortment of humans, animals, time travelers, and aliens. At the end of one of those books, Callahan disappeared and the bar was destroyed to thwart an alien invasion, but the end of the book hinted that a new tavern under another owner would rise again, and the stories would continue. About that time I stopped reading much science-fiction and fantasy, so I never learned what happened next.

This background should help explain why I picked up “Callahan’s Legacy” recently, and why I’m so disappointed in it.

Did you ever meet someone for whom time had stopped somewhere around Woodstock? Callahan’s new owner, Jake Stonebender, is a folk-singing hippy whose pregnant wife is planning her delivery without the aid of drugs (except for marijuana, which they consume in massive doses at the end of the book). In the past, stories about the bar were focused on the problems of the patrons, and written in the belief that confession is good for the soul, and that unconditional love and acceptance can solve any problem.

“Legacy’s” sloppy plot is about as unfocused as ’60s philosophy in general, except to mention that if you’ve read “Callahan’s Secret,” you’ll get both a recapitulation and a sequel here. The confession / redemption theme is here as well, only to these older and wiser eyes, it sounds clumsy, shallow and more than a little ridiculous. One character’s account about being sexually abused as a child, written in bizarre Brooklyn accent that only a Canadian living in Vancouver could create, adds a jarring note to what is essentially a shaggy alien story. “Callahan’s” series is a reminder that not everything one reads as a teenager will stand the test of time.