GHOST DANCE: A PLAY OF VOICES by Gladys Swan

GHOST DANCE: A PLAY OF VOICES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A second novel from Swan (after Carnival for the Gods, 1986), who's also published three collections: a multiple point-of-view extravaganza set in a small town in New Mexico on the occasion of the return of a Hollywood actress. Chloride, New Mexico, is a small dying town ""hanging there in the mountains, isolated, off the beaten track."" Most local gossip concerns A.J ""Bird"" Peacock, a trickster figure and ""last fledgling of the local dynasty,"" and Roselle More, who made it in Hollywood but who, like the town, is fading. As a promotional gimmick, More's director, Bill Brodkey (""the air crackle[d] around the man""), decides to bring the actress home for the premiere of her new film. Quickly enough, she disappears, and Joan Gallant, a local look-alike, stands in as her double. The ensuing narrative moves from voice to voice: Joan's identity becomes problematical as she buys into her portrayal of More, reading the actress's journal but ""Afraid the mask would be ripped from her face...."" Other points of view include mayor Curry Gatlin; More's aging mentor, Jesse Biddeford; painter Lauren Collingwood; director Brodkey; and, of course, trickster Peacock. Swan uses her sundry characters and various subplots to meditate on the way acting creates selves, then weaves a vision quest into the tapestry as well as a town fire and an odd stalking game between Joan (as More) and Peacock, who finally prepares a ""surprise"" for the town, culminating in a shindig at his place: voices, ghosts, and the ""Wilderness,"" or the ""dance of illusion""--which includes a mock-play and a lot of thrashing about in an apocalyptic finish that turns comic and upbeat. Swan is no García Márquez, but this Southwest-flavored concoction, mildly experimental, leads us through an entertaining mix of entangling alliances and intrigues.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 252pp
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press