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BANANA ROSE by Natalie Goldberg

BANANA ROSE

By Natalie Goldberg

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-553-09527-7
Publisher: Bantam

 A writer who writes about writing (Long Quiet Highway, 1993, etc.) writes her first novel about...a painter. Banana Rose (nÇe Nell Schwartz of Brooklyn) is living on a commune in New Mexico trying to develop as an artist when she meets and instantly falls in love with Gauguin (nÇ George Howard of Minnesota), a musician. For a time the two find bliss in a house with no phone or plumbing, although Gauguin can sometimes be insensitive. Banana also has an intense friendship with Anna, a lesbian writer who eventually moves back home to Nebraska. When Gauguin insists on moving to Boulder, Colo., Banana goes with him, even though she loves Taos more than anyplace else in the world, and implausibly stays in Boulder after they break up and Gauguin moves to Minneapolis. But Banana next heads for Minneapolis, stopping on her way to make love with Anna, which does not seem to bode well for Banana's plans to lead a more conventional life. Goldberg's writing improves as Banana and Gauguin marry and are forced to deal with reality. (The earlier New Mexico scenes have some beautiful descriptive passages but read a bit too much like a travel essay.) As Banana's awareness of her Jewish identity evolves and her relationship with Gauguin gets edgier, the novel grows more interesting. It does feel like a hedge, however, to have Banana and Anna living apart rather than dealing with the sexual charge between them, and the hippie-dippy imagery can be grating, as when one character dies, and Banana is convinced that she has woken up in the middle of the night and shared the experience. The author, like her characters, occasionally seems stuck in the '60s. Well crafted but also a little silly. (Author tour)