Going one step beyond recent unconventional biographies such as Edie that reconstruct their subjects' lives solely through interviews and letters, this first novel by two young Harvard graduates is a tour de force. Using 23 narrative voices, each one distinctive and accurate in tone and idiom, the authors limn the short, intense, creatively fermentative life of Eton Arthur Boone. From the kaleidoscopic entries emerges a charismatic but deeply troubled personality, traumatically injured in childhood when he innocently abets his father's betrayal of his dying mother. Boone spends the rest of his life trying to exorcize his guilt and loss, drawing into his orbit everyone he meets, using and discarding all; no one is able to penetrate his heart. Beginning his career as a brilliant stand-up comic and celebrity impersonator in Greenwich Village, he goes on to produce a movie and write both a play and a novel about his mother. He finally falls in love--with tragic consequences. As his life spirals downward, so do those of others who love him--including a Vassar professor who is his mentor and patron, and his eccentric, charming, homosexual stepbrother. Readers will be mesmerized by this portrait of a man who reflects both the pop culture of the '60s and '70s and the angst of an artistic genius. July
Regarding this first novel, there is good news and bad news. First the good news. An innovative, intense, and fresh style marks this ``fictional biography'' of Eton Arthur Boone, artist, comedian, playwright, filmmaker, author, and actor. In the style of real-life biographies Haywire and Edie , a medley of voices tell Boone's story, as well as their interactions with Boone and his affect on them. Starting as a comic, Boone's impersonations lambasted and illuminated public figures from Richard Burton to J. Edgar Hoover. His life was tormented and ended in a tragic death. Transcripts of Boone's actual performances allow the reader to experience Boone's talent, but herein lies the bad news. Boone is discussed by others as being so extraordinary, so talented that he is ultimately out of reach and distant to the reader, thus making sympathy difficult. So what starts out as a strong and impressive style and story fizzles out after about 100 pages. Still, recommended for larger collections.-- Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Cty. Free Lib., Seaside, Cal.