Gabriel Tucker's gargantuan trust fund has allowed him to spend his life traveling and partying, so he's none too pleased to receive a letter informing him that his uncle has blown all the money in the trust, and the only thing Gabriel has left is a crumbling hotel on South Beach. Gabriel finds the Venus De Milo Arms inhabited by a lip-synching tranny, an AIDS-afflicted gossip columnist, an elderly woman obsessed with her wardrobe and a performance artist named Marina, whom Gabriel promptly falls in love with. Their lives intertwine along with those of a Cuban refugee-cum-supermodel and a fashion designer obsessed with making South Beach's gaudy dilapidation the new chic. As Marina struggles with the past that keeps her from returning Gabriel's affection and the Venus de Milo Arms is threatened with becoming the next pile of rubble on the road to progress, Gabriel starts to realize that the old hotel may be the only place in the world that he can call home. Antoni delights in describing in pornographic detail the absurdities of South Beach (drugs, sex, freakish locals), but he never gets beneath South Beach's chipped veneer. The light treatment has its moments, but it isn't quite satisfying. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
For the past several years, Gabriel Tucker has lived riotously courtesy of a trust fund, but now . . . Gabriel's uncle Ian delivers the bad news: "I regret to inform you that by the time you get this letter, I'll be dead and you'll be broke." Uncle Ian has been speculating with Gabriel's bankroll, and all that's left for him is a run-down art-deco building called the Venus de Milo Arms ("a sunny place for shady people") in South Beach, a city Gabriel has never visited. He falls into a love-hate relationship with this architectural gem-or monstrosity, depending on your point of view. It seems some high rollers want to buy it, tear it down and put up multimillion-dollar condos with ocean views. Gabriel quickly bonds with some of the outre residents of the place, including Holocaust survivor Miss Mera Levy; kinky Skip, who's "into pain"; Pandora, a lip-synching transvestite waiting for sex-reassignment surgery; and most notably Marina, a gorgeous performance artist who's also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (aka the "genius grant"). We also follow the fortunes of Jesus Mas Canosa, a Cuban male prostitute who flees to America on a raft, immediately meets the multimillionaire designer Salvatore Fabrizio (later assassinated-hmm) and gets a fat contract to be in ads for designer underwear. (His tag line: "America is fantastico!") Halfway through the novel, Antoni (Paradise Overdose, 1994) starts pressing the sympathy pedal rather too hard. He wants to produce an emotional reaction from the reader when Miss Levy dies and when Skip gets AIDS, but these serious issues get sidelined in a narrative defined by froth. Antoni does nothing by halves: His characters are overdone, overripe oroversexed-or a combination of the three.