THE BOOK OF FRANK by Simon Black


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 This odyssey of a societal dropout doubles as a feebly satirical overview of downtown Manhattan's performance art scene; Black, an Englishman, also wrote Me and Kev (not reviewed). Frank hates himself. He has, he tells us breezily, always hated himself. He yearned to be an artist, but he didn't have a shred of talent. He moved to New York and worked for the city, but he even bombed as a bureaucrat. At age 29 he quit his job, lost his home and possessions, and frequented shelters and soup kitchens. Frank's one consolation is the parade of beautiful women on the streets of the Lower East Side. He starts following a pretty young woman called Henry (Henrietta). Luckily for Frank, Henry collects freaks. A member of a wealthy old family, she is living with a strung-out musician. Suddenly and improbably energized, Frank, the guy who couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag, stages a show to win his newfound love; but when he sets his hair on fire, it just makes Henry feel sick, though the performance gives him cachet (``Frank the Self-Destructionist'') and an unwanted admirer in Luz, a tall, exotic woman who practices black magic, deals drugs, and ``spreads the disease.'' She tells Frank he has a cause (``the death of art'') and persuades him to be crucified in order to redeem it. His pursuit of Henry now takes a back seat to the preparations for his crucifixion as Frank becomes a tour guide to Luz's ``avant-garde wonderland,'' gets his penis pierced (``part of the modern primitive movement''), survives more ordeals (another burning, a fall from a fire escape), and sounds more and more like a comic-strip character (`` `Arrgggh,' I growled''). Black is just mouthing off here. His superficial sniping at the artistic pretensions of the downtown druggies never amounts to a coherent vision.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-880909-25-1
Page count: 185pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1994