VAN GOGH'S BAD CAFê by Frederic Tuten

VAN GOGH'S BAD CAFê

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Again blurring the lines between past and present, fact and fancy, Tuten (Tintin in the New World, 1993, etc.) reconfigures his familiar theme of love's totemic urgency, here pitting the needs of Vincent van Gogh against those of a late-20th-century rival in Manhattan's East Village. When flame-haired Ursula steps through the only standing wall in one of Alphabet City's rubble-strewn lots, she by chance also steps forward in time and into the startled gaze of a downtrodden photographer, a boozy epileptic who thinks he's having another fit. He isn't, though, so he takes her home, where she strips away her century-old garments, soaks in his tub, and begins to tell her story. She is herself a photographer, morphine-addicted, and the teenage muse of van Gogh. He is completely infatuated with her, though her own desperate needs bring nothing but trouble to their relationship. In fact, Ursula was searching for a fix when she stepped through the wall into the next century, and in spite of her would-be rescuer's (whom she names Louis after the dealer she was really looking for) now being infatuated with her himself, Ursula still craves the calm that narcotics provide. She explores Louis's demimonde, then strikes out on her own, taking in all that the city's drug culture can offer and recasting herself as a punk beauty. In spite of her assimilation and her affection for the hapless Louis, however, she worries about Vincent and one day steps back through the wall to her French cottage--though the mechanism of her return malfunctions, so that Vincent finds her as something less than she was. A tender tale, its magical effects as beautifully nuanced as its portrayal of van Gogh is passionate. The New York scene, though, is far less compelling, leaving a mismatch in intensity that's hard to overlook, no matter how much one might want to.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-688-15134-5
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996




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