SCAR VEGAS by Tom Paine


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A debut collection of tough, angry tales about American arrogance and the world's woes. While the plots of some of the stories feel forced, the anger never does. "Will You Say Something, Monsieur Elliot?" traces the moral education of a wealthy American, lost at sea when his sailboat goes down. Half dead, he's fished from the water by a boatload of Haitians attempting to flee to Florida. Packed on a sinking ship, without food and or much water, the Haitians are convinced they will be saved because the Americans will surely search for their countryman. As they begin to die, Elliot is exposed to a world far more harsh and unforgiving than he had previously imagined. "The Hotel on Monkey Forest Road" unravels the different fates of two men sent to Bali to build a luxury hotel. One plunges forward with the job, despite local protest. The other becomes fascinated, then almost unhinged, by the Balinese reverence for nature and their belief in a simpler lifestyle. His efforts to retard Western inroads are, of course, unsuccessful. Most of these pieces depict the Americans'aside from the few who side with the hard-pressed locals'as crude and violent, yet blithely innocent. In "Ceau'escu's Cat," a freethinking Romanian journalist barely eludes the dictator's thugs, gets stranded in Nevada, and is offended by the ignorance of the Americans he meets, who are baffled by his appetite for opposition and ideas. "The Mayor of Saint John" portrays a Virgin Islands mayor trying vainly to oppose the affluent Americans displacing his people to construct grand homes, convinced that their seizure of land will inevitably bring a "better" life to the locals. In the process the intruders guiltlessly destroy the old communal culture. Anger sometimes overcomes art in these tales, but they're genuine and persuasive enough to signal the presence of something uncommon among today's writers: an old-fashioned social critic and moralist.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: ---
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace