He sets about his project not through any didactic stating of facts but through a subtle and persuasive use of language. He explains:
Castro has stated that the kind of novel he most enjoys reading is one he does not understand immediately, one that requires him to search out references and make discoveries (‘Lesions’ 195). This is the kind of novel he writes. However, a number of critics do not appreciate Castro’s style and motivation. Some interpret his language games and his sparring with literary and psychoanalytic theory and theorists as overly self-conscious, intellectual posturing. He has also been labeled a writers’ writer because of the literariness of his concerns and the vast sweep of intertextual references that inform his narratives. His writing is often dismissed as being too cerebral or too literary. These criticisms warrant consideration.
Castro’s writing playfully engages with literary and psychoanalytic theory. In the early novels, characters meet various theorists or discuss pointedly their ideas. In Birds of Passage, Seamus meets Roland Barthes—in Castro’s opinion, one of ‘the most seductive theorists of writing’ (‘Fireworks’ 242)—on a train looking mournfully out the window at his impending death by a laundry van. In Pomeroy, the protagonist, thinking about mirrors and psychoanalysis, tries to come up with an anagram of canal. Readers are expected to realise the reference is to Jacques Lacan. In Double-Wolf, Sergei Wespe makes jokes about Freud ‘passing over’ a book to an acquaintance named Jung. There is a shift, however, in Stepper (and the subsequent novels) where theoretical references and characters are more coded in the narrative, available for excavation if the reader so chooses. Karen Barker has noted some of the critics’ complaints about Castro’s use of theoretical ‘mumbo-jumbo’ and the need for readers to have knowledge of literary theory in order to understand his novels (‘The Artful Man’ 231).