THE COLORIST by Susan Daitch


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At last, a novel about young people living in the funky East Village of Manhattan that isn't mired in sexual and chemical excess. The protagonist of Daitch's (L.C., 1987) multilevel novel escapes the gray and gritty dangers of her own life by identifying with a chaste comic-book heroine who roams through Manhattan like a goddess from another planet. Julie Green moves into Eamonn Archer's East Village apartment after she is mugged at knifepoint on the roof of her own apartment. Eamonn is an intrepid free-lance photographer, and although he has lived in the States since he was a boy, he presents himself as an Irish revolutionary with a shady past. Julie is a colorist for a comic-book company called Fantomes, spending her days seeking the perfect electric blues and crimsons to backdrop the life of ""Electra""--an outerspace superwoman who seems to spend the bulk of her time eluding the advances of a menacing suitor named Orion. When Eamonn disappears to Maine to photograph an IRA gunrunning ship apprehended by the FBI, Julie begins to wonder whether he knows what he's doing. He agrees to go to Belfast to help in a deliberately vague plot by taking photographs of people who meet on a certain street corner (Eamonn doesn't know which people he photographs are suspect or why). Suddenly realizing he doesn't even know which side he's working for, Eamonn absconds with the film. Meanwhile, back in N.Y.C., Julie loses her job when Fantomes decides to replace Electra with a high-tech comic. She supports herself by coloring forgeries of Egyptian art (presumably for the Met, but she doesn't trust her boss). Eamonn reappears briefly, but only to collect his things. In the end, Julie's whole life is mirrored by her private version of Electra, in which she wanders through the Lower East Side as a homeless woman, taken advantage of until she learns to use her special powers to mirror people--thus learning to disappear. Beautifully written and stylistically original, but the plot and the characters are comic-book flimsy, with Julie a string of vivid observations but flatter than a cartoon character.

Pub Date: Jan. 16th, 1989
Publisher: Vintage/Random House