Second-novelist CartiÇr (the paperback Be-Bop, Re-Bop) writes- -in rhyming jive—about a woman who, trying to make it as a musician, supports herself emotionally by imagining two women jazz artists from the 30's and 40's. The result can be lyrical, with the prose equivalent to music, but also stagy, awkward, and contrived. Kat is a young pianist who has ``onstreaming fantasies'' of Kitty, Chicago (`Go) and Lena, alter egos who talk with her, live vivid lives and offer role models (``The past was the place to go when I was mad, sad or too glad to stand it''). In other words, what we get are improvisations—a series of sketches, occasionally mannered (``But don't let me elate when I oughtta deflate with the aid of jagged edge truth''), but also often more than that (``Some relentless riffs roll to mind: for a minute, I hear me an earful of Prez an' his ace Ladyday, them ridin' the air beat for beat blowin' sweet nasty blues straight outa the box, vocal to shadow phone, partners in Chicago Square Old Orleans crime''). As Kitty searches for self-esteem and creativity, hounded by useless men, CartiÇr too often settles for easy riffs, self-congratulatory and powdered with fashionable sentiment: ``That's how I'd describe the nature of me: I'm a woman in search of my own need to be'' or ``I'm an adventure! I cried to myself one time in a dream and felt pleased....'' After stories and fantasies of the times when women were women and men were something more than they've become, Kat, of course, finds her way to her own song, her own freedom to be herself. An odd book, for a specialized audience—jazz aficionados who are willing to read through some so-so automatic writing to get to the good riffs. CartiÇr's hyperactive prose sometimes serves its muse—and sometimes just likes to hear itself talk.
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