MAKE-BELIEVE BALLROOMS by Peter J. Smith

MAKE-BELIEVE BALLROOMS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here, Smith (Highlights of the Off-Season, 1986) tries to do for the Andrews' children--Hal (the narrator), sister Fishie, and brother Beck--what Salinger did with his Glass family: make them intriguing, eccentric, and lovable. The result, though amusing, is frivolous and all-too-gimmicky. Young New York artist Hal, a self-proclaimed genius cynical on the outside but redly sweet as sugar, first tells of his brother Beck's marriage to Lisa Lyman, an heiress and all-around jerk who "liked to pretend she had served a tour of duty in Vietnam." Sister Fishie offers Beck good money to call off the marriage, but it happens anyway. . .and in tedious detail. The siblings (including newlywed Beck) then hide out to hold a funeral for the ashes of Hal's dead cat Kitty. (He's written five volumes of The Kitty Journals, a daily loving account of his cat's perambulations in the world.) After much more business involving the siblings (Fishie, an Olympic swimmer, shaves her head, and Hal shaves his pubic hair), and after Hal's actress-waitress girl Veebka leaves him, Mary Ann Beaver from Patent, Texas, calls him on the phone ("I like your name. That's all"), then arrives in New York with tough-brother Frank. She wants to be "the face of the decade" and moves in. After a lot of slapstick (some amusing, some tiresome), she gives up: Hal drives her back to Texas and falls in love around the time she proclaims, "We're all of us handicapped in some ways, aren't we?" In quick order, Hal marries her and they move to Los Angeles, where he becomes a successful conceptual artist, while Fishie does commercials, and Beck (minus Lisa, who dies) brings up Baby (or Spot, as he renames the kid) with the help of his siblings and Mary Ann. Smith is promising, and there is much to like here, but finally this is too cutesy, too parodistic, and too padded for more than a passing nod.

ISBN: 87113-318-0
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
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