This very modern fairy tale, in which such timeless evils as envy, greed and cruelty are abetted by the latest advances in computer graphics technology, has the spare impact of both its literary antecedents and television cartoons. Four decades ago in the borough of Brooklyn, Angela, the beloved young wife of shoe repairman Jack Standini, descended into the subway on a trip to Manhattan and was never seen again. After Angela's disappearance (``She was just gone . . . lost like a glove or a sock or a dream, missing''), Jack kept to himself, fixing shoes by day and carving wood angels--exquisite and jewel-eyed, in all sizes--by night in the back room of his apartment. Then young, vulnerable Lucille enters his shop and, awakening Jack's interest in the present, soon moves into his bedroom (he sleeps on the sofa). Deciding to model herself after Marilyn Monroe, Lucille catches the eye of Buddy Lomax, a computer graphics techie (employed at Linotype Hell Graphics) whose obsession with recreating the dead Marilyn darkly mirrors Jack's devotion to his angels. Building on Buddy's monumental venality, Lucille's passivity and a murder in Jack's neighborhood, film-student Thomas propels the plot of this page-turning story in glancingly immediate, cinematic scenes. Innocence, constancy, artistic integrity and the evanescence of beauty are among the age-old themes addressed with vivid, compelling intensity in this quirky, high-flying tale. Under the pseudonym Prince Charming, Thomas wrote Complications. (June)
This unusual, allegorical novel is filled with a regretful wistfulness for so many might-have-beens. In a spare but elegant style, first novelist Thomas describes the improbable relationship that develops between Jack, a lonely cobbler whose 19-year-old wife disappeared mysteriously many years before, and Lucille, a young woman who dreams of becoming Marilyn Monroe. Into their lives comes Buddy Lomax, a shrewd computer technician, who is able to manipulate graphic images on an ingenious machine aptly named ``Hell.'' He promises to help Lucille transform herself into the movie goddess, even as he schemes to rob Jack of his secret life's work of magnificent wood-carved angels. This exquisite cautionary fable is highly recommended.-- Barbara Love, St. Lawrence Coll., Kingston, Ontario
Downtown meets Brooklyn, Pygmalion meets Faust, and Marilyn Monroe meets the devilin this rollicking contemporary fairy tale by first-novelist Thomas. For 40 years in Flatbush, Jack has quietly worked at his bench at Reliable Shoe Repair by day and in his secret room, carving luxuriant Renaissance angels out of ebony and ash, by nightall the time waiting, somewhat hopelessly now, for the reappearance of his wife Angela, who mysteriously failed to come home from a shopping trip in 1952. Instead, two things happen: Jack's elderly neighbor Mrs. Rice dies, replaced by a tenant Jack thinks of as "the mass murderer" because he uproots and otherwise desecrates Mrs. Rice's lovely garden, over which Jack's secret room has looked for more than half a century; and a sweet 19-year-old waif named Lucillean aspiring Marilyn Monroe imitatorwanders into Reliable to have her waitressing shoes fixed and wins Jack's grandfatherly affections. That's when the trouble starts. At a Marilyn look-alike contest to which Jack accompanies her, Lucille meets Buddy Lomaxagency photographer, image banker, and master operator of a diabolical computerized photographic collage-making device called the Hell; Buddy promises to make Lucille more like Marilyn than Marilyn and begins by sending her to dermabrasionists and plastic surgeons. By now Lucille is living in Jack's apartment, and Buddy tricks her into letting him peek at the lavish, jewel-eyed backroom angels, whichbeing even more beautiful than his own creation in Lucillehe decides to steal: First he'll try compiling a phony photographic life-history of the missing Angela on the Hell machine and pretend to Jackthat he can locate herin exchange for the angels; if that doesn't work (and it doesn't), Buddy will frame Jack for the murder of the loutish next-door neighbor, who's been found dead in Mrs. Rice's garden.... Like Walker Percy in his early novels, Thomas possesses a real gift for the lyrical and fabulous: an impressive, oddball pleasure.