VERTIGO PARK by Mark O'Donnell


and Other Tall Tales
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 Humorist O'Donnell (The New Yorker, Spy, etc.) presents a dizzy little satire and a miscellany of literate fun in diverse modes. Without shame or remorse, the author has his way with the English language, committing several assaults and a battery or two on a defenseless Mother Tongue. For example, ``Vertigo Park,'' an aborted real-estate development (so named in a mistaken stab at suggesting lush greenery) was ``the gateway to tomorrow, since the future is only the present left to run wild.'' One of the players in this long title story appears in a dubious flick called Will Wanda Never Cease?. There's playboy Culvert Booney and ``prestigious Leeward College, whose motto was Stand and Mingle.'' Add a scourge known as Fatal Urogenital Carnal Kinesis, which ``claimed its victims without any right to such claims.'' Maybe this is O'Donnell's attempt at The Great American Novelette, with its youthful romances, malefactors of some wealth, politics at the highest level, and pervasive all-American silliness. Maybe not. Wisely, he also presents a clever drama--sort of a Joycean play, playing on words--and a Bunyanesque tall tale about Johnny Business, who could sell feathers to a fish, retail, and his secretary, Babe the Blue Blood. There's the story of Bitty Borax, girl detective, who could postulate speedily--a modern Jonah tale wherein ``the crew and most of the passengers were superstitious under their clean clothes,'' and, as they say, more. The gathering is not large but it's inventive. Sometimes it invokes the spirit of Benchley, sometimes Perelman; then it's Bob and Rayish or Woody Allenish. Finally, it's the work of a comic chameleon, whose parodies smirkingly lurk in the verdant flora of the language. A small collection, sometimes silly, mostly funny, written with verve of steel. Send more japes, O'Donnell. (Cartoons throughout, hand-drawn by the author.)

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-40040-0
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992


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