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A loopy, rather wonderful fiction debut by O'Donnell, whose Vertigo Park and Other Tall Tales (1993) Kirkus called silly/funny ""with verve of steel."" For all his puns and wordplay, O'Donnell still keeps that steel verve as an understructure to his japes. And he has a golden ear for capturing the tones of New York's gay culture. The story starts in Catholic Cleveland with the birth of Blue and Red Monahan, identical twins, their real names Hans Christian and Robert Louis. Mother Monahan keeps a crucifix in every room of the house, like a fire extinguisher. And the boys are up to their necks in siblings, whose marriages and careers we follow sporadically throughout the novel. Mostly, though, the story's about Blue, now a Manhattan songwriter, who discovers early on that he has a talent for writing tunes and lyrics: as an adolescent, he has a hit song, ""Love Is the Answer."" (He later finds that life is the answer and love the question.) Red falls into a hit television show and becomes immensely famous, while Blue's Homeric musical Odyssey folds after a week off-off-off-Broadway. The plot repeatedly returns to Blue's two heartbreaking, failed love affairs, played out against the backgrounds of gay life on Fire Island and the Pines, in the Village, and at uptown penthouses. Blue's vulnerable heart, his grief and anger for his lost loves Homer and Teddy, is explored with great clarity, and you don't have to be gay to experience these losses with him. In the end, both Homer and Teddy abandon him with a cruelty stemming from their own shortcomings. Meanwhile, his friends start falling off into oblivion, many with AIDS, in a series of farewell scenes handled with much skill. Blue, chastened by love and loss, grows up. Universal feelings persuasively explored.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1996
ISBN: 0679781226
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Knopf