A first novel from Australian writer Bird about a Tasmanian town, its inhabitants, and a replica of a town built under a glass dome: a delightful fable whose parts fit together with the integrity of a Joseph Cornell miniature. Reality and fantasy meet in this tale set in Copperfield, a little bush town that turns ghostly but is rebuilt under a glass dome by The Best People as the Historic Museum Village—''the Disneyland of the Antarctic.'' In 1985, Bedrock Mean is the only inhabitant of the original town (as opposed to the replica). She's the mother of Lovelygod, a midget-child born in 1960 who disappeared in 1970 and has never been found—and who is now a figure of near-legend. Mean's brother Carrillo went looking for Lovelygod and ended up ``running some center for the finding of lost children in America.'' Virginia O'Day also figures prominently: she lived in Copperfield as a teen-ager and became a writer. We're treated to her early diaries, to a series of interviews with her, and even to letters she wrote to Charles Dickens (``The trouble is, I am a girl''). Then the narrative magically doubles back on itself when it changes point of view; and, finally, after poetic prose and meditations on extinction, after lovely pseudo-history and reflections by O'Day (``It seems to be a very Australian story, the story of Lovelygod. Children disappear without a trace''), we come round to ``A Reader's Guide to the Bluebird Cafe,'' where various people and places are defined in glossary fashion. A curious fable, then, written with the precision of a Nabokov, that creates its own world and makes that world vital. Bird manages in brief sections to construct an odd and endearing place, filled with its unique inhabitants: a sweet-natured looking- glass version of Twin Peaks.
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