THE LEGENDS OF JESSE DARK by Michael Doane

THE LEGENDS OF JESSE DARK

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Wearisome remnants of--or throwbacks to--1960s-style youth mythology continue to surface from time to time: this pretentious first novel puts a halo around a small-time grass pusher named Jesse Dark--who, operating out of the college-town of Vermillion, South Dakota, supposedly assumes legendary status as outlaw and cool dude par excellence. There are some tight, appalling scenes of Jesse's dreadful childhood: abuse from his father; Jesse's stand-in parenthood to sister Rose, a mental casualty. Otherwise, however, Doane's busy, self-conscious narrative (shifting narrators and tenses, etc.) fails to churn up much interest or sympathy--even when Jesse moves from drug-dealing (with a famous third-floor escape from the cops) to life among the social dregs of St. Paul, Minnesota (selling porno, rescuing abused children). Similarly, Jesse's New York girlfriend Harper and his best friend Dusken Lowe (a famous rock-singer whose hands have been crushed) seem to appear merely as further examples of period-style woe. And, throughout, the heaps of misfortune are not allowed to stand on their own but instead receive the baleful embroidery of fustian prose: ""The anatomical chart of a broken heart. Here is the disappointment which leads to disillusionment and an irreversible sense of loss. Here is the brief reaffirmation of love and devotion which follows. Note how delicately it trails away into grief and is enveloped by cruelty. The artery of hope is swollen; love is a withering ventricle bleeding into itself and hemorrhaging."" Half-baked, overblown, and hard to take seriously.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1984
Publisher: Knopf