WONDERS OF THE WEST by Kate Braverman


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Braverman (Squandering the Blues; Palm Latitudes; Lithium for Medea) turns her oracular voice and on-the-edga vision to a teenaged girl's coming of age in 1960's LA. Seventeen-year-old Jordan--who lives ""the great American game show in reverse...the anti-matter of game shows. It's about what's gone""--repeats the names of the women's prison and the state mental hospital ""in the darkness as if I were already entangled in a form of possession."" And Braverman's prose--which converts subjectivity to ominous abstraction a little too unrelentingly and often--does make Jordan seem psychotic. But consider the world she lives in (and imagines describing to abducting aliens): her mother Roxanne--who, when Jordan tries to talk about a problem, dismisses her with an annoyed ""Auschwitz is a problem""--drove west with Jordan, leaving New Jersey (and husband) behind, pawning possessions, arriving destitute; Uncle Louie--the rich bookie who was supposed to provide the high life--is undergoing cancer treatment and shares a subsidized apartment in the grim subculture of mostly terminal patients; at high school, counselors are insensitive philistines, the ceiling covered with ""acoustic squares drilled with rows of holes...is where they crucify sound,"" and Jordan is intentionally flunking typing and home ec. For solace--perhaps salvation--there's poetry, her best friend (whose relatives in Hiroshima ""married the air and lost their destiny""), and the beckoning hippie world of the Haight. Overburdened (as in the playing out of the Wonders of the West metaphor) but endlessly quotable; repeatedly jolting with truths, dark humor, apocalyptic passion.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Ballantine