THE MYTH MAN by Elizabeth Swados


Email this review


Swados (The Four of Us, 1991) seems to have intended some sort of deep subtext in this puzzling novel, but it is too carefully buried. Rikki Nelson (yes, named after the other one) is nine years old. Her prostitute mother (who sometimes ""lent"" her to customers) has disappeared, and Rikki is living with a man who might be her biological father and who has theatrical aspirations: ""He said he wanted to direct long plays by a man named Eugene O'Neill."" Although Rikki doesn't speak, he manages to find her advertising work as a model. Then her big break arrives, and she is taken in by Sasha Volotny, a famed experimental director. He begins, with his troupe, to develop a show called ""The Myth Man,"" which one participant describes as ""a metaphysical follies...Ed Sullivan for snobs."" Rikki is entrusted to the care of Sasha's brother, Charles, a former drag queen. There are other quirky hangers-on, including a Yale Drama School graduate writing an article on the group for The Village Voice. Sasha (nÉ Stephen Solomon) is supposed to be a charismatic leader, but he just seems like a pretentious taskmaster. His own brother taunts him by telling him that he sounds like ""a Swami from Long Island."" Sasha's prattle about mythology and creativity is a guaranteed snooze. When Charles -- dressed as Icarus -- accidentally lights on fire during a rehearsal, Rikki speaks -- and thereafter babbles in strange, disjointed phrases. The group travels on to Paris, and finally Sasha receives a grant to take the company into the Amazon and towards its inevitable crisis and destruction. Swados, a playwright and composer, pokes fun at wealthy arts patrons and makes the adult actors look foolish through Rikki's childlike eyes and clear literary voice. But is she just trying to say that all theater is silly? This has the feel of a parable, but the moral remains a mystery. A traveling show that goes nowhere.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1994
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Viking