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Ghost Dance

A Play of Voices: A Novel

Gladys Swan

Publication Year: 1992

hloride, New Mexico, is a dusty mining town slowly bleaching away in the sun, a casualty of the big copper firms’ exodus to South America. To the dying place returns Roselle More—hometown girl and faded Hollywood star—for the premiere of her new film. The even is a cynical promotional gimmick, one that her director, Bill Brodkey, making a last-ditch attempt to affirm his own artistic integrity, hopes will also resurrect the actress’ bottomed-out career. Naturally the citizens of Chloride hope the publicity will do the same for their town. But Roselle vanishes. A double assumes her place—and suddenly nothing is as it seems. In this eerie, beautifully crafted novel, Gladys Swan presents an impressionistic palimpsest of myth and modern life, in which the present is revealed as only a play of light and shadow over a ghost dance that—tenuously—ensures the world’s continued existence. Part history, part myth, part meditation on truth and illusion, the novel becomes a kaleidoscope of plots and subplots, each refracted through the perceptions—the voices—of a cast of characters as intriguing as the Southwest itself. And as the town giddily whirls toward its rendezvous with truth, these characters find themselves precariously balanced between a lost past of blood-deep spirituality and an unknowable, terrifying future, between the world of drama and the drama of the world. Presiding over and in some mysterious way engineering this ultimate rendezvous is the oracular A.J. (“Bird”) Peacock, archetypal trickster, Oberon, Puck, Prospero to the town. Truth, Bird points out, is not always comforting. The truth (or a truth) is finally revealed when the voices of the title—of the past, the land itself—speak during the novel’s apocalyptic conclusion. There, in the wilderness, in a dazzling play within a play, the past comes face-to-face with the present, the spiritual with the profane. In this crowning union of memory and desire, this shoring-up of fragments against ruin, the discerning reader will hear echoes of writers as disparate as Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, and Joyce. Never less than consummately entertaining, Ghost Dance: A Play of Voices works flawlessly on many levels at once. The demands of this remarkable novel are great, but so are its rewards.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press


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p. 1-1


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pp. iii-vii


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p. ix-ix

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I: Scene: The Town

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pp. 1-45

Things were in a slump. That much everybody knew, since the fortunes of the town were tied to the price of copper. As they'd once been to silver, and before that to gold. The golden dawn, the silver day, now the copper evening, dimming, it seemed, into night. Boom or bust, hanging on by a gasp—hail or ...

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II: Director

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pp. 46-58

Energy: it seemed to make the air crackle around the man, charge the atmosphere of the room, the inner source unceasing and resistless—leg swinging, fingers drumming as the words came tumbling out. He could not sit still; his standing seemed a prelude for flight. He was on the run through ideas, people, ...

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III: Actress

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pp. 59-89

Couldn't fool her. Shopping center and gas stations and motels to the contrary—sprawl of business. Banks are taking over the world—money fortresses. Car wash, what not. A place to make you eat your heart out, devour you to the dust. She knew towns, grew up ...

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IV: Flashbacks

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pp. 90-115

Where, how did people get lost? Missing children, gone without a trace: where did they disappear, leaving only their loss—a portrait in the newspaper, a poster in a public building, the offer of a reward? Or those last seen crossing the street in the most casual ...

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V: The Film

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pp. 116-134

Entertainment: where all the world's a stage, and all the players merely men and women. But not to the public; it loves, envies, emulates them so. Larger than life it casts them. Like the images on the screen. And away from studio and screen, the high ...

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VI: Performances

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pp. 135-165

The fire had struck the heart of the town, leaving a blackened core: the theater and the old Greek's candy store alongside, the high-school hangout, and buildings on both sides. Destroying a furniture store and a men's shop, then depriving the Benevolent and ...

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VII: Certain Passions

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pp. 166-197

Risk. In enterprises of great pitch and moment there were casualties. And that, said Bird Peacock, is the law of taking off on your own. And the question always nagging at you, for which you could never get an answer to satisfy you was what made folks take ...

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VIII: The Voice Box

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pp. 198-210

They came. Curry Gatlin and Virgil Langtry and Emmett Early, the jeweler, and Lucien Hake, the undertaker. They were all there with their wives. Except Lester Pruitt, who was late or else had decided against it. Bill Brodkey watched them come indoors ...

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IX: Mise-en-Scène

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pp. 211-251

He was at a loss. You can't create something out of nothing. But down there in the void of generation, what was the nature of possibility? The dance of illusion, the quirkiness of aberration, chaos? Chaos is in the world, he thought, lying behind every moment. Crack the ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780807153666
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807117064

Page Count: 252
Publication Year: 1992

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