PHOENIX by Melissa Pritchard


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 This debut novel by a two-time Flannery O'Connor Award-winner (Spirit Seizures, 1987) is really a picaresque novella, the occasional chronicle of a young woman's life on the road during the heyday of hippiedom. Ergo, its fabric is composed of scenes from a neo-Edenic California (Big Sur, Venice Beach, etc.), tarot cards, Grotowski, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, brown rice and sprouts, birth-control pills, bell-bottomed blue jeans, mescaline, acid, and peyote. In its foreground is Phoenix, skinny from a diet that wouldn't keep a sloth alive, alternately drug-wired and morosely introspective (reciting Rimbaud, of course), having ``dleiberately drifted out of the calm flat stream of college privilege.'' Her itinerancy yields adventures: a relationship with an actor named Deal, who straps her during sex and convinces her to play the dead girl in Genet's Deathwatch; rape while hitching; a stint as a waitress at an Isla Vista coffeehouse; a bad trip in the woods; and finally a reunion with her distressed mom and dad (a psychologist and kindergarten teacher, respectively), with whom she eventually heads for home. Pritchard's approach--using the present tense, weaving in and out of the first- and third-person, eschewing quotation marks in dialogue, and including snatches of Phoenix's travel diary--gives a patina of authenticity, and Phoenix's prefeminist revolution mind-set is interesting (not to mention depressing). But for most serious students of the Sixties, Kerouac is best, sharper, still the real thing.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1991
ISBN: 0-943433-08-8
Page count: 133pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1991


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