How are you?"" someone asks. ""Pretty fair for a square,"" answers Makar Atnui Aknada. And, from the first words out of his...

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MUSIC FROM A BROKEN PIANO

How are you?"" someone asks. ""Pretty fair for a square,"" answers Makar Atnui Aknada. And, from the first words out of his mouth, it's clear that Makar, a.k.a. Joseph Mana--a black poet from Detroit invited as ""World Teacher"" to a white artists' colony in New England--is Big Trouble. ""It was enough for most, young and old alike, that he was black and crazy a lot of the time--too much that he insisted on being something special beyond all that."" Only Toni McHugh, a filmmaker with very much her own mind, and Nathan, the ""Farmington"" community's leader, are quite as special. And it quickly takes shape that Farmington's most truly avant-garde experience will arise from the white folks' clutching, nearly atavistic fascination with--and dread of--Makar. It's 1969, Neil Armstrong toeing the surface of the moon, utopianism pungent in the air, the freer the artistic forms the better--and yet all the multi-media events and sexual inventiveness of the colony's artists only seem to be fodder for Makar's scorn, domination, sphinx-like commentaries, and verbal victories. (""'You all right,' Makar was saying, 'you all right. We just made a little movie, is all. In terms of saying, eating gun is hard on a man's stomach, you know what I mean? I mean you come around wanting to make a movie, I told you what was going to happen, didn't I? Go fuckin' around with a loaded gun ain't no telling where you get off. Wrap yourself in a little box, ain't no place to go but momma's. It loves to happen.' "") So the anarchy and dissolution that eventually occur are inevitable--as Hall (Yates Paul, His Grand Flights, His Tootings) shows himself to be an authoritative, spry, multi-textured writer. True, there's a shortage of emotional sustenance here: the coolness of language, critical watchfulness, and overheated situations don't always harmonize to push the story into one forward direction. But Makar is that very rare thing--a genuinely and fascinatingly scary character, perhaps the best such one since Russell Banks' Hamilton Stark; and his puppeteering, through truth and threat, of everyone's tossed reactions (including the reader's) is discomforting, sharp, special.

Pub Date: June 15, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Fiction Collective--dist. by Flatiron (175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010)

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983