by Kelly Cherry ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 1983
Outfitted with a pompous dedication (""to Oppressed Peoples Everywhere"") and presumptuous acknowledgements (""final thanks"" to Orwell, Voltaire, Shakespeare), this absurdist/political future-fantasy is inventive but disappointingly thin and puerile--especially considering the great promise and charm of Cherry's previous novels (Sick and Full of Burning, Augusta Played). Down in Bolivia, guerrilla Miguel--with girlfriend Rosita (who yearns for bourgeois marriage) and US-educated sidekick Ramon (who silently yearns for Rosita)--decides ""to beat these capitalists at their own game"": backed by a super-rich ex-Nazi, he grabs control of Bolivia's economy, is soon President, and then ""Plenipotentiary"" of all South America. Meanwhile, in the US, an Oklahoma engineer demands a 100 percent tax rebate for all--or he'll detonate bombs in water mains across the nation; his chief ally is cigar-smoking N.Y.C. sculptor Jane (angry over a $16 tax penalty), who's being trailed by a lonely IRS investigator; this anarchic fever spreads to England, where young acting student Noelle (with the unlikely support of the Queen Mother) seeks celebrity with a campaign for a general strike. And, after the US Prez is assassinated, the world (along with the novel) pretty much collapses--as Miguel kidnaps the Pope (a KGB agent), the characters converge on Bolivia, and everybody winds up headed for deep space in a hijacked spaceship. . . with odd couples pairing off on the way to oblivion. The point of all this? ""Whatever may be the rights of man, it is the Inalienable Right of the Imagination to Rejoice in Itself."" And Cherry's playful imagination is never in doubt through this intellectual-comic-book mess--from cheap puns to send-ups of Gordon Liddy and Phyllis Schafly. But, although there are occasional funny lines, the scenario as a whole, which often seems like a pale echo of a previous period's satire (from Dr. Strangelove to Bananas), lacks manic inspiration or authority; the political earnestness in the background, though vague, is overbearing; the cuteness that marred Augusta Played is given even freer rein here. And while there is something oddly likable about Cherry's feckless approach to geopolitics, her fitfully engaging attempt at Wacky Parable seems like the work of a talented writer gone very much astray.
Pub Date: April 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983
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