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Futuristic first novel: a jumble of race, science, environmental concerns, aesthetic theory, and characters haunted in spite of wealth and success. Toxins threaten human life; floods ravage major cities; civil-rights legislation is thrown out; and blond, beautiful, brilliant architect Wanda Higgins Du Bois tries to win an international-design competition while coping with her divorced parents (her mother, a black psychiatrist; her father, the white atomic scientist Air Force officer Wanda refuses to see) and while worrying about the two men in her life. Bradley, a light-skinned African-American passing for white, hopes to recover his cultural heritage by having an affair with Wanda and calling her ""sister,"" but he's increasingly erratic and violent. And the aging and fabulously wealthy Sterling Cronheim--once a Modernist artist and important Bauhaus figure in pre-WW II Germany--who is believed dead, although Wanda instantly sees through his assumed identity and brings him to live with her. (Like most relationships here, it's obsession at first sight.) A parallel flashback story tells of Cronheim's life as an artist and his marriage to scientist Lenore, who made him temporarily give up his homosexual adventuring. Perhaps Perry wishes to contrast modern technology's disastrous results with the Bauhaus faith in the synthesis of art and technology leading to a new improved human nature and life. But the book is so cluttered with enigmas, painful secrets, architectural and aesthetic theories, not to mention gadgets, clothes, and furniture, that nothing emerges clearly--not characters, story, or message.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1990
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux