IN THE PALACE OF THE MOVIE KING by Hortense Calisher

IN THE PALACE OF THE MOVIE KING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

"By the last decade of the twentieth century, America...had become accustomed to taking to its heart or its bosom...a particular band of adopted heroes...called dissidents." In her latest bemusement with fancies bred in the dazzlingly cerebrating heads of wryly antiheroic protagonists, and with a spider-web-light satiric voice, Calisher (Age, 1987; The Bobby-Soxer, 1986, etc.) here follows the arrival in America of a famous cinema director-- his netting by and release from a "minor Balkan province" (presumably Albania). For 16 years, Paul Gonchev, born in Russia, educated in Japan, has produced "travelogues" in the "confined space" of a fierce small country where travel was a "sin." Then, scenting danger in a country thistled with it, Gonchev's wife, Vuksica--mother of teenaged Laura and bullboy son Klement--arranges to have Gonchev shanghaied ("exported" as he would later think of it) to America, hungry for famous dissidents. Unlikely guides take over: a brace of dissident-hunters; a Breslin-like Manhattan journalist; and Roko, the tiny Japanese woman who translates (Gonchev reserves his English). Back home, meanwhile, the family stirs: Laura arrives in the US bound for yuppiedom; brother-in-law Danilo and Vuksica will perform virtuoso rescues; and a mother shoots her son! All this while Gonchev absorbs the US (accompanied by lover Roko) in short takes: from the color of N.Y.C.'s harbor ("sadness or squid") to college students eating red meat ("recently on the haunch") to a quake in California, where a new friend is slowly devoured by earth-as-womb. Throughout the emigres' journey, Gonchev tosses off bomblets of perceptions, cinematic images giving off little heat but a sharp flickering light, with some incidental buffoonery. At the close, Gonchev, a happy American, will teach his students to forget the dream city of the emigre and "record wherever one is, while standing by the river of flux." A slow, packed, teeming fictional journey, but the becalmed- to-bucketing excursion through the fantasized emigre experience is worth a trip.
Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-41574-2
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993




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