BAJA OKLAHOMA by Dan Jenkins
Kirkus Star

BAJA OKLAHOMA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Her bluejeans weren't as dirty as/The thoughts that crossed his mind."" That's just a sample of the songwriting talent of 43-year-old Fort Worth waitress Juanita Hutchins, the star of Jenkins' latest raunchy satire--which is even rosier at heart (and even less equipped with that li'l ol' thing called a plot) than Semi-Tough or Dead Solid Perfect. As usual, of course, Jenkins surrounds his plucky protagonist with a gallery of hilariously foul dudes, etched in with a kind of brotherly cruelty. So here, at Herb's Cafe (where calm, bright Juanita really runs the show), we meet: trucker Roy Simmons, whose sideburns are ""shaped like Africa""; oil tycoon Beecher Perry--with his latest ""steel-bellied air-head"" doxy--who expounds on the economy (""Who gives a damn if people up East are freezing to death because they can't get enough fuel oil? I don't""); Tommy Earl Brunet, who explains the difference between ""tits"" and ""titties""; Doris Steadman, who's forever cheating on hubby Lee and has now dyed her pubic hair pink; Dr. Neil Forcheimer of the TCU English department, who chuga-lugs Gibsons; etc. And closer to home Juanita must contend with some equally lovable/hateful types--because mama Grace is a noisy hypochondriac and daughter Candy has run off with cocaine dealer Dove Christian . . . and now believes that Winston Churchill ""wanted to 'fight them on the beaches' because that's where the cocaine dealers had summer homes."" But the center of Jenkins' novel this time is really pure mush: a love-letter to the C&W music called Western Swing and its home, Fort Worth. So, despite all those raucous, troublesome sideshows (Candy and Dove, pursued by narcs in Denver, start sending their coke stash to Juanita), Juanita's story is mostly a cheery fairy-tale: she works on her songs night and day; her un-pushy gentleman friend Slick (whose ex-wife ""fancifully transformed herself from Rita Hayworth into Joseph Stalin"" during twelve years of marriage) is supportive; she impresses ""Old Jeemy,"" a somewhat shady d.j./ manager (""Don't worry about your voice . . . They got equipment that can make a fart sound like a Renaissance choir""); Juanita's spaced-out pal Lonnie records her best tune--""Baja Oklahoma""--with his group Dog Track Gravy. And before the end Juanita will share a stage with Willie Nelson himself (""She spiraled into a vague cloud of rapture"") and go on to a recording career, soon meeting such unpleasant gold lamÉ stars as Patti Leu Springer (""Okay, which one of the Jews fucked this up?""). Lots of laughs, lots of heart, lots of TCU football games--an utterly insubstantial entertainment (uncomfortably akin to TV's Alice and Flo), but alive with that peculiar Jenkins two-step: raw and mean one minute, warm and sweet the next.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1981
ISBN: 0875653995
Publisher: Atheneum