San Francisco’s golden-ager Beat philosopher/novelist/essayist (She Took My Arm As If She Loved Me, 1997, etc.) returns, as full of talk as ever.
Aging bachelor Dan Shaper translates Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese for non-English–speaking folks up before the city courts. His empty love-life, meanwhile, bears a faded For Rent sign. Then one day a phone call comes from 19-year-old Amanda Torres, daughter of Margaret Torres, a lapsed painter Dan hasn’t seen in 20 years. Amanda says she’s his daughter and would like to meet him. When she comes to his office, he sees at once that she speaks the truth, but she’s also a demanding pill, cutting him no slack at all for not knowing he was her father. What’s more, she wants a car and money from him in recompense for his unwitting but crass stupidity in ignoring her all these years. She’s had it tough with Margaret, after all. Come and say hello to mother. So off he goes to reunite with Margaret, who is even worse news than Amanda and cuts him even less slack, simply because he’s a man. Then ersatz Romany Gypsy Gyro Brown wants Dan to translate for Gyro’s daughter, the young, robust, dark-eyed Shari, a trained and serious shoplifter now facing criminal charges. Gyro, who runs the Yerba Buena Foundation (a high-grade whorehouse Shari helps manage), might even hire Dan for some other alternate activities. Well, more money would help our blameless hero provide for his new family. Enter the huge, gleaming, fearsomely gentle black giant D’Wayne, the whorehouse’s bouncer and Amanda’s lover, whom Shaper finds deeply inappropriate as future father of his grandchildren. What happens when life happens and you’re suddenly stuck with someone? A big Wakeup Call blasts you, as Gold knows, and you’re never the same again.
Compelling, if endlessly padded.