OPHELIA AND THE GREAT IDEA by Deborah Levy

OPHELIA AND THE GREAT IDEA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

English playwright, poet, and performance artist Levy's first short collection of fiction: in part, a jazzy madhouse symphony--apocalyptic, shot through with surprising images--but also overwrought and flimsy at times. Most successful are: "Preparing for Life," an homage to magical realism, in which the soul of the cantankerous Mamita escapes (after a great sneeze) in the form of a timid white mouse and scampers off to play in the grass; the title story, about an atomic physicist trapped by science (which "is not a cluster of tragic, inexplicable events like those that will recur throughout this story") as his wife leaves him, one daughter commits suicide, and the other drowns her baby; and "A Little Treatise on Sex and Politics in the 1980s," a whirlwind satire of trendy England that juxtaposes a love affair with stream-of-consciousness commentary on present-day London. Of the others, "Proletarian Zen" is a series of pidgin-English instances about a Zen master and three sisters interested in his "jade stem": it's amusing but too clever, and finally monotonous and rhythmically choppy; "Flush," about a party on a ghost-ship with pirates, is surreal and phantasmagoric (like Bob Dylan cover notes from the 1960's) but dated; and "Heresies," paying homage to van Gogh and Artaud, is part artistic polemic and part a series of sketches of the near-famous or the relatives-of-the-famous: there are some very good lines and some first-rate improvisation as well as some clutter. Which is true of this short, promising book as a whole: some is authentic rock-and-roll--clever, hip, and primal--but there is also too much mere doodling by a talented dilettante.

ISBN: 670-82605-7
Publisher: Viking
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