A second novel from Swan (after Carnival for the Gods, 1986), who's also published three collections: a multiple point-of-view extravaganza set in a small town in New Mexico on the occasion of the return of a Hollywood actress. Chloride, New Mexico, is a small dying town ``hanging there in the mountains, isolated, off the beaten track.'' Most local gossip concerns A.J ``Bird'' Peacock, a trickster figure and ``last fledgling of the local dynasty,'' and Roselle More, who made it in Hollywood but who, like the town, is fading. As a promotional gimmick, More's director, Bill Brodkey (``the air crackle[d] around the man''), decides to bring the actress home for the premiere of her new film. Quickly enough, she disappears, and Joan Gallant, a local look-alike, stands in as her double. The ensuing narrative moves from voice to voice: Joan's identity becomes problematical as she buys into her portrayal of More, reading the actress's journal but ``Afraid the mask would be ripped from her face....'' Other points of view include mayor Curry Gatlin; More's aging mentor, Jesse Biddeford; painter Lauren Collingwood; director Brodkey; and, of course, trickster Peacock. Swan uses her sundry characters and various subplots to meditate on the way acting creates selves, then weaves a vision quest into the tapestry as well as a town fire and an odd stalking game between Joan (as More) and Peacock, who finally prepares a ``surprise'' for the town, culminating in a shindig at his place: voices, ghosts, and the ``Wilderness,'' or the ``dance of illusion''—which includes a mock-play and a lot of thrashing about in an apocalyptic finish that turns comic and upbeat. Swan is no Garc°a M†rquez, but this Southwest-flavored concoction, mildly experimental, leads us through an entertaining mix of entangling alliances and intrigues.
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