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You'd probably expect that a Jerome Charyn fantasy of White House and Washington, 1944, would produce, at the very least, a nymphomaniac Eleanor and a hysterically senile FDR. Not so. This overpopulated ramble--centering on the White Home's beloved live-in sailor Oliver Beebe, who thrives on movie mags and tootsie rolls, cuts the Presidential hair, walks Fala, and chauffeurs the First Lady--has its Charynian moments of savagery, but the predominant tone is nostalgic, with semi-kind words even for J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover enters the complex picture as Ollie's dinner partner and guardian angel, something Ollie needs, since he's been enticed into a pro-Dewey, fascist-Trotskyite-Spanish lunatic fringe by his sister, for whom he has soon-fulfilled incestuous yearnings. The Franklin Scare: will loyal, handsome Oliver be used to deny his Boss a fourth term? Not likely when he's busy foiling an assassination attempt on Eleanor at a Negro Mothers' rally or accompanying FDR to Yalta (Stalin smiles on him) or visiting broken ball-player Tuskegee Ox in the sanitarium. There are seeds here of a later generation's poisonous blooms--FBI excesses, black rage (a dead baby in the street), imperial presidency--but what lingers are the snatches of My Day, fireside chats, and wartime patriotism. Aside from these echoes, this, like lesser Vonnegut, is as consistently unaffecting as it is consistently effective: admirably detonated explosions of fancy that hit everywhere but home.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1977
ISBN: 0595159206
Publisher: Arbor House