The career of a middle-aged Brazilian actor goes seriously off the rails—and then plunges into the abyss.
Bad things happen in this second novel by Brazilian actress Torres (The End, 2017), and then bad goes to worse, but the tone of the novel remains closer to farce than tragedy. Having forsaken the soap operas that made him a star, the narrator has committed himself (and his financial resources) to a touring production of King Lear while his life offstage has become more Lear-like than his performance onstage. His mother has dementia; she believes her son is her husband, and she keeps trying to seduce him. At least she talks. Her mother-in-law, the actor’s grandmother, remains alive but barely lucid. And so the family members he might expect to help him care for his mother have their hands full. “I thought back to Lear’s madness,” he laments. “I should have studied my grandmother more closely.” For his real-life predicament strikes him as closer to the madness and tragedy of Shakespeare than what he has been portraying on stage, even before he had brought the whole production crashing down on him by breaking into uncontrollable laughter at the most inopportune time. The bulk of the novel finds him reminiscing on how he has found himself at this juncture. He remembers his early days studying under a radical polemicist, when he learned that revolution preached from the stage can lead to disastrous consequences. He found his own revolutionary inspiration in Hair; it was lust that led him to acting and then to love with an older actress who found it impossible to separate her roles from her life (a recurring theme throughout the book). A series of set pieces then includes a disastrous film shoot and a biblical TV soap titled Sodom, where “ripped dancer girls weaned on iron and protein supplements shook their silicon during the Dance of the Seven Veils.” He thinks he has hit his absolute bottom when he takes a toilet paper commercial in his role as Lear in his attempt to recoup his losses. But in a novel like this, things can always get worse.
From an inside perspective, there really is no business like show business.