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 The struggles of the proudly eccentric family of a once-famous poet who's committed suicide lie at the heart of this kaleidoscopic comedy, which dazzlingly illuminates the exact moment when the '60s disintegrated into terminal narcissism and gave birth to today's entropic culture. Jones (Particles and Luck, 1993, etc.) spins out an audacious plot focusing on a pivotal four days in 1973 when the children of James Farmican, a beatnik who blew his brains out three years earlier, are finally compelled to give up their father's decaying labyrinth of a Victorian mansion. ``California's over,'' says their beautiful self-absorbed mother, Julia, now married to psychiatrist Faro Ness, whose oozing '60s sensitivity can't hide the fact that he has seized almost all of the family's assets. Two children, Peter and Wendy, are casualties of too much Peter Pan whimsy; their long-lost brother Ed, given up for adoption to a ``normal'' family, has arrived to claim his inheritance. Observing all this is Steve, the callow 17-year-old who had been hired to clean out the house. Falling (naturally) under their spell, the interloper has already managed to impregnate Wendy; he follows her and her siblings to Nevada, where Ed wants to resurrect his father's shuttered Cornucopia Casino. Writing 20 years later, Steve describes how Peter gambled himself into debt to gangsters, and how Wendy let a Christian cardsharp convince her that she could pay off her brother's debt (and save her unborn child) by serving clients in the Ecstacy Ranch brothel. The novel circles around to Steve's account of meeting Wendy again after 20 years, the two reuniting not because she loves him, but because she needs him to pose as her husband in order to contest Faro Ness's control over the now sizable estate. Jones performs an act of alchemy here, burnishing the bitter and petty betrayals of an era with a lyrical anguish that makes Steve's aching regret feel universal. (First printing of 25,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-42334-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1997


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