MEDUSA'S GIFT by Lois Gould


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 Another sophisticated puzzler from Gould (Subject to Change, 1988, etc.) that uses ambiguous--though always rich--language and fragments of popular culture to toy with readers in a perversely pleasing way. Gould's subject now is fame, embodied in Magdalene--a Madonna-as-Marilyn superstar come to the island of Medusa to die, separate herself from her public persona, or tell her life story, complete with details on her liaison with a president. Disembarked at Rob Twist's American Bar, she goes for a swim, only to be stung by the strange beast that haunts waters around the island. On shore, a handful of men and women--all of them cannibalizers of the famous--are ready to sting her too, including Dr. Grace Craven, who's made the trip to Medusa to gather information for a Magdalene biography and land the Magdalene collection of memorabilia for her lover, a museum director named S.Z. Hroch. As with so many celebrities, Magdalene proves to be privately needy, which is why she enters into a sexual relationship with Grace. But who's using who? It's difficult to say, especially when Grace becomes utterly submerged in her subject, and then gets cheated out of the prize Magdalene memento--a case full of vials containing famous men's sperm (``a bloody great Swiss bank of world-class ejaculate''). Worse, Grace learns that Hroch doesn't want the treasure trove unless Magdalene dies, which she seems to at the end of this hermetic little novel. Or has she just gone into hiding, to reappear like some phoenix 20 years hence? Curious twists, lurking symbols, and meaning within meaning are Gould's stock and trade. But what she's up to here--other than a freewheeling discussion of fame and a long drink of thick text--is anyone's guess.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-394-58229-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991


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