The sordid but strangely bland life story of woe-prone actress Jane Belmont--in a poorly-paced first novel that plods along...



The sordid but strangely bland life story of woe-prone actress Jane Belmont--in a poorly-paced first novel that plods along agreeably enough while sticking with Jane's misfortunes but then, halfway through, becomes a tedious quasiroman-à-clef about Libby Holman and Montgomery Clift. Jane and twin brother Peter grow up in Depression Manhattan in a formerly-rich family, but home life is ended by multiple calamity: little sister Joanie disappears while in Jane and Peter's care (never to be found); Papa dies (in a mistress' arms); Mama goes bonkers. So, while Peter becomes something of a boy-prostitute in N.Y., Jane finds herself with Uncle Ben at a summer resort/theater, where she's deflowered and discovered, talent-wise. Then--on to the Neighborhood Playhouse, rooming (sleeping) with lesbian Aurelia while loving Jewish playwright/G.I. Danny, and seeing Peter (her real, forbidden lust) go off to die in World War II. But meanwhile Jane's career has taken off--and so has her weird father/daughter liaison with mobster Sal, who introduces her to cocaine (he also has Jane's black-folksinger lover killed). And then there's a lesbian thing with well-born Claire, a brief rekindling with Danny, and marriage to Claire's impotent brother Bill--who treats Jane's baby (by Danny) as his own. . . until he's murdered at a party. Jane is accused and acquitted, but her career is mined; and her passions focus on very young actor Nicholas Spenser, a super-beauty of tortured, ambivalent sexuality whom Jane coaches and comforts. This team is doomed, of course: Jane's little son is accidentally killed, she's jealous of Nick's girl/boy-friends, and Monty. . . sorry, Nicholas descends into booze and pills, especially after a disfiguring car crash and humiliation by director John Huston, er, John Gordon (""Listen, you little shit queen! You're going to remember your lines or. . . I'll ram your vodka bottle so far up that ass, no fag'll ever want to travel that way again""). Crude psychology, an unlikable heroine, and largely unconvincing show-biz backgrounds (Jane wins an ""Obie"" eight years before they existed)--a just-passable potboiler that does, however, show some storytelling knack in those involving, never-followed-through opening chapters.

Pub Date: May 5, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1981