JIM DANDY by Irvin Faust


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 Faust (Newsreel, 1980, etc.) returns to the novel after a 14- year hiatus in this impenetrable tale comprised of shards of dialogue and a fragmented plot. Hollis Cleveland, our hero, has a gift: ``He knew what people were thinking about him.'' It's good that someone knows what's happening; regrettably, it is rarely the reader. Cleveland is a black man surviving in 1930s Harlem by racketeering for local bigwig Sol Winograd. When their relationship sours, Cleveland, aka Jim Dandy, flees New York for London, where he meets soapboxing general Henry Armitage, who sponsors him to go to Ethiopia, which is being invaded by Mussolini's Fascists, with whom Cleveland voluntarily becomes entangled. It seems that everyone wants Cleveland on his side: the Italians, the Africans, and other unmemorables who've flown down to the fray. After a post-plane- crash schlep through the war-torn desert, Cleveland ends up in Addis Ababa, where he indulges in a luxury hotel room and elegant new clothes. Fate tosses him from Ethiopia to Liberia and eventually back to New York. Winograd reappears at the end, in a rare instance of continuity, to make Cleveland a job offer. All this is communicated through stagy, stilted dialogue (Uncle Tomspeak for the black characters at the start; the Queen's English, I say, for the Brits) and descriptive passages with more holes and extraneous matter than a dirty spaghetti strainer. Where readers are supposed to infer, they must instead guess, assume, and misunderstand what is going on until the dreary end. The chapters are broken by random and baffling ``Interludes''--A Scientific Interlude, An Historical Interlude, A Demented Interlude, etc. A Lucid Interlude and some coherent narrative passages would have been welcome. Attempting to read Jim Dandy is like trying to assemble and drive the rusty scraps of an abandoned junkyard jalopy. You're better off renting a wreck than trying to jump-start this lemon.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1994
ISBN: 0-7867-0062-9
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994


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