AIR by Michael Upchurch


Email this review


From the author of Jamboree (1981), the quirky, offbeat story of a not-terribly-likable young girl trying to make her way in Washington, D.C., in the late 70's. It's the long-ago winter of 1978-79, time of Jimmy Carter, Jonestown, and revolution in Iran. Arriving in Washington and going to work in the library of a scientific publisher is a strange young North Carolina girl named Arleen--she's a drifting 18-year-old whose lack of affect is absolutely unsettling to the people she meets, especially motherly Mrs. Nardelli, who runs the library and is also trying to find out what makes Arleen tick. For herself, Arleen is content merely to hold a simple job, avoid all the ""men who like men"" that the town seems to be filled with, and spend her evenings at the Cafe DÉjà Vu, listening to a country-western band doing their sound checks (she leaves before they start playing, so she can avoid the one-dollar charge. But one night the music changes--a one-man punk band named Andrew takes over. Andrew is as skinny as an alley cat, wears a three-piece suit and challenges his audience to come up and fight him--which many of them do. He's the first person Arleen has ever met who is as spaced-out as she is, and the two of them have an extremely strange affair (most of it spent in Arleen's dismal basement apartment, the place where plants go to die) before they finally get married--whereupon Andrew becomes a kind of young Republican, and he and Arleen work for conservative ""change"" in Washington. It's difficult to capture the lives of people as essentially empty as Arleen and Andrew, and Upchurch never really does it successfully. But he's an impressive writer with a sensitive eye and ear, and he has captured--brilliantly and almost photographically--a period in recent history, the pause before Reagan, which seems much longer ago than it really was.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Available/Ballantine