Levy's feverishly imagined, opaque and dislocated contemporary allegory is set in London and New York, but occupies an anarchic space all its own. Through the agency of cigar-smoking, stump-toothed Russian exile Lapinski--a woman who is evidently a repository of near-extinct Western Soul--the author summons up a series of grotesques, or ``beautiful mutants.'' They include the Poet who shapes conveyor belt hamburgers; Gemma, the avaricious and violent transsexual Banker; and the (tightrope walking) Anorexic Anarchist who announces herself ``an antibody fighting the diseased putrescent body of this society.'' Sitting as a little fictive bird on the Banker's shoulder, Lapinski is derided by Gemma as a creator of mere fiction, a paltry stratagem for survival in the reality decreed by those like the Banker who are truly--materially--powerful. Poet, playwright ( Heresies ) and short story writer ( Ophelia and the Great Idea ), Levy is an audacious writer, but her startling images lack the cohesive thematic structure required for her novella to succeed. (Nov.)
The theme of British writer Levy's first novel is wearisomely familiar: the dehumanization of our culture, the fragmented and alienated lives people lead, the vanished dreams. This particular piece of angst stars a Russian exile named Lapinski and her odd bunch of acquaintances in London, who go by such names as The Poet, The Banker, and The Anorexic Anarchist. Lapinski's disconnected narrative alternates occasionally with that of a second narrator, a vulgar, frustrated male who has all the trappings of success but underneath is scared and violent. His voice rarely rings true, which is the problem with the novel as a whole. Too often the characters strain to be profound but end up sounding pretentious and even absurd. Although there are many powerful, poetic passages, they are not enough to save the novel: Levy is a poet who has strayed out of her true medium.-- Bryan Aubrey, Fairfield, Ia.