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 In the latest from McCourt (Mawdrew Czgowchwz, 1975; Kate Wayfaring in ``Avenged'', 1984), the first story of two--``I Go Back to the Mais Oui''--acts as an overture for its much longer successor. Danny Delancey, a gay New York performance-artist, recalls the camp-wild days of downtown artistic gay culture before AIDS: the bars, baths, cults (for Judy G. and Callas, for McCourt's own original Kate Wayfaring and Mawdrew Czgowchwz), and the Hamptons. But it is the long soliloquized novella--``A Chance to Talk''--where everything becomes truly personalized, from the lips of Odette O'Doyle, a renowned drag-queen ballerina newly arrived from Europe and taking the train out to the South Fork in the company of Danny. Nothing goes past or surprises Odette: he/she's seen it and done it all; and McCourt lets his character talk about St. Augustine, de Kooning, the unsafe-sex young (``They're still at it, I thought, like Carolina snake-handling Baptists, besotted in their religion exactly like believers in the thoroughly discredited appendix to the Gospel of Mark: believing they can beguile the cobra and drink any deadly thing and it shall not harm them, all because they are wearing the talisman: not ankh, and not the cross, but the pink triangle''); poets like John Ashbery, James Merrill, and James Schuyler (here called ``the Skylark''); painters and transvestites and scandals. Synoptic like a gospel itself (though the news is hardly glad)--Odette's recitations are brilliant, touching, funny, self-deprecating: flamboyance warmed with wisdom. McCourt is no easy writer, but his way with disorder and sorrow--early and late- -is not to be missed.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41266-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993


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