WAR CRIES OVER AVENUE C by Jerome Charyn

WAR CRIES OVER AVENUE C

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another hectic, effortfully wacky hodgepodge from the prolific author of the Isaac Sidel series and The Franklin Scare--this time throwing together a particularly haphazard assortment of plot-elements: the Lower East Side; Vietnam; KGB agents among Russian-Jewish refuseniks in Brighton Beach; and Bolivian drug-smuggling. At the center of the slapstick potpourri is ex-Vietnam nurse ""Saigon Sarah"" (nee Sarah Fishman of Bayonne, New Jersey), who lives in an Avenue C fortress converted from an old Talmud Torah (Hebrew school). There, she cares for a strange array of semi-conscious inmates--including her old flame from Vietnam, Howie Biedersbill. But there's a secret force at work in the ongoing existence of Sarah's bizarre institution: the patients are sent her way by a shadowy directorate disguised as a publishing company--a sinister operation that's involved with cocaine, espionage, a Montagnard tribe. . . as well as a vast rest-home in New Jersey (run by the KGB). Charyn is undeniably inventive, wildly allusive. (The directorate, for some inexplicable reason, uses Rimbaud and Henry James as a front.) His prose is an energetic jumble of honky-tonk impressionism, often less-than-coherent, sometimes reminiscent of lesser William Burroughs (though without the homosexual preoccupations): ""Sarah heard a familiar twitch in the music. Wasn't a balalaika, no. It was Teach's tin fiddle that the little genius had acquired. He'd gotten rid of the bow and he pulled on the fiddle like a chicken plucker playing a Cossack melody. Deep snow was Samuil's microphone. The music had its own wires. Samuil's women danced near the truck."" But, alternately cute and manic, this jumpy mishmash is only for Charyn devotees; all others will find it giddy at best, often irritating, and sometimes all-but-impossible to follow.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1985
Publisher: Donald Fine