MAYBE I'LL CALL ANNA by William Browning Spencer


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An odd first novel that begins as an interesting study of 60's culture and mental disturbance--and ends as an overloaded melodrama: a murder mystery involving a pathological psychiatrist and a guru with soul. All of the obsession, betrayal, madness, murder, and love Finally become too soap-operish, though there's a certain human urgency most of the way through. One night in 1966, David Livingston--an emergency-room orderly and would-be artist--meets Anna Shockley, who has overdosed. David obsesses over her and rents a room in the ""commune"" where she lives. Amid lots of 60's stuff--drug, drink, music--we meet a motley assortment of characters. When Larry, Anna's drug-dealing boyfriend (""Anna ain't gonna be happy till I hit her""), is found dead from a heroin overdose, nobody except Anna is stricken. By now, David is Anna's lover, despite her ""schizophrenic"" episodes. And here's where the plot turns random, as though the author must include as much as possible. David gets drafted, then released, and returns to find out that Anna is dead. The point of view shifts to Richard Parrish, a near-psychotic who becomes a psychiatrist, has an affair with Anna, decides to marry the boss' daughter, and arranges for a psychopath to kill Anna and poison himself. But not to worry. Guru John Walker (unknown to David) saves Anna as she floats away in the river, and much later (1987) David returns to North Carolina and, seeing that Anna is still borderline, gets her committed to the same hospital where Parrish works. Parrish decides to try to kill her again after bringing on psychosis with drugs. Meanwhile, Parrish's wife leaves him as the scandal begins to become public--and David rescues Anna, who's nevertheless happy to be great with Parrish's child. Elements of emotional intrigue get buried, unfortunately, in all the melodrama.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
Publisher: Permanent Press