SANDMAN'S DUST by Melvin Jules Bukiet

SANDMAN'S DUST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A muzzy, overloaded, but lively enough little fantasy, all about counting one's earthly blessings, dull as they may initially seem when compared to the thrills and terrors of runaway illusion: a first novel which owes a debt in its central conceit to all those circus-as-metaphor flicks and fables, and not a little to L. Frank Baum. On June 7, 1941, in the town of Norma, New Jersey, at 4:30 A. M., there appeared to the wondering eyes of teen-ager Lilly Bloom (daughter of struggling egg farmers and niece of narcoleptic fat Lenore, ever lost in sleep) what must-be-a-hundred trucks stretched down the road. Enter the circus, the ""Wonderful Show of Mr. Besmith"" with human and animal wonders and ""The Mysterious Egg,"" a ""huge translucent ovoid the size of a gorilla."" The next night, lights on the fairgrounds beckon with a promise of ""mysterious pleasure,"" and to the tunes of the distant calliope Lilly will be aware more acutely than ever of a ""secret Lilly Bloom."" Meanwhile, Lilly's not looking forward to her inheritance of three acres of Jersey soil, a decrepit farmhouse and a few elderly chickens. ""I'm bored and I want magic,"" she declares to the sinuous Madame Magda, Mistress of the Mystic on the midway. Mesmerized, while all Norma is drawn to the circus like iron filings to a magnet, Lilly will whirl, as if blown by evil winds, through the mayhem that follows: she's chased through woods and water by a gorilla (or is it the boy that the new ""secret"" Lilly had flirted with?); and prepares to be ""sacrificed"" by the circus magician, as he had earlier sacrificed a goat from whose body he'd extracted a ruby. (There's an anecdotal tale featuring the legendary P. T. Barnum, who captured a ruby and also pursued passion-torn trapeze artists). While Lilly's invaded by grotesque sexual fantasies, her cousin Wren-the-Righteous finds salvation among the damned, and the monstrous Aunt Lenore bestirs to battle, with magic Mr. Besmith, the image-maker, who is closer to the Blooms (and Norma) than one could guess. As for Lilly, it just remains for her to click the ruby slippers. . . What should be the central focus here--adolescent secret stirrings--is diffused by a surfeit of symbolic grotesqueries, but there's plenty of sawdust excitation.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1985
Publisher: Arbor House