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A former member of Manhattan's Wooster Group theater company lightly fictionalizes a scattershot memoir of her West Coast relatives. Rower's disjointed first effort aspires to be a profound commentary on the different lifestyles found on opposite coasts--and yet relies on such insights as ""It's a California thing"" to describe the LA fondness for cars, panic disorders, and security systems. Ann, the narrator, barely disguises her own unpleasant character from the moment she travels to LA for the funeral of her famous uncle, Leo Robin, the Oscar-winning lyricist who also composed Bob Hope's theme song. Over the following years, as she continues to visit the family that Uncle Leo left behind--headed by the wife he married at age 82--Ann drools for the family Jaguar, her aunt's diamonds, her uncle's Oscar, and a Henry Miller painting that she does in fact score (""It was all so famous, resonant, and exciting to me""). Ann's greatest transgression, though, becomes apparent in a self-reflexive afterword, where she blithely justifies exploiting her relatives for the sake of art and offers some phony excuses about bettering womankind--including verbatim the suicide note of Uncle Leo's step-granddaughter, an aspiring model in her late 20s who couldn't overcome her debilitating neuroses. Ann's episodic visits west, over a nine-year period, begin at Leo's funeral, with her aunt obsessed over whether Bob Hope will show up at the service. Ann returns four years later to comfort the aunt, named Cherrie, now dying of cancer and zonked out on Valium. Another trip to see the opening of her play (""LSD Just the High Points"") ""was the high point of a very high time for"" her. Meanwhile, Cherrie's family continues to entertain this obnoxious relative who mocks their apparent tackiness, their treatment of their servants, and their unenlightened politics. Some lesbian interludes and a strident call for ""more Amazonian [role] models"" suggest the gender-correct politics that underpin this awkward and amateurish book.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: High Risk/Serpent's Tail