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Atice, Williams' mostblatant mouthpiece , approaches each new happening with a surprisingly plausible combination of innocent wonder and jaded experience. A poster girl for gifted children , she spouts offon subjects ranging from animal rights to human consumption patterns. She beUeves herseti to be on the way to greatness, seeking "to possess a savage glitter." Her passion for causes provides her best friend, Corvus, with the opportunity to indulge her own morbid tendencies. Annabel completes the trio; she is the blossoming debutante, better suited to a "normal" life than the other two, although she knows better than to believe in such a fantasy. The three girls travel through the local desert, encountering people and situations so bizarre that the reader, although perpetually startled, nevertheless acquires a sense of being there, of recognizing a simtiar madness in ordinary daily experience. In the course of the story, the girls manage to pick their way into the world of grownups, relying on each other to decide which lessons are valuable. It comes as no surprise that their standards differ not only from those of the adults they encounter but also from those of many twenty-first-century Americans. WiUiams writes with a surreal clarity , drawing meaning and poignancy where most would find none. The numerous subplots are supplemented by her own addresses to the reader, sometimes veiled through the voice of a character, sometimes direct. This method is not entirely successful, for though the reader gains additional insights, he or she is also left with a dissatisfying aftertaste. There is little distinctionbetween the characters, and between the characters and WiUiams. Despite the occasional snag, however, WUliams has created a story in which Ulusion and complexity are balanced by humanity and tenderness. (EP) To Repel Ghosts by Kevin Young Zoland Books, 2001, 368 pp., $26 AfricanAmerican artistJean-Michel Basquiat, discovered in the rush of attention given to Graffiti art by Keith Haring in the early 1980s and mentored by Andy Warhol, is the central figure in Kevin Young's new book of poems, To Repel Ghosts. Young chronicles the artist's short-lived rise from ghetto to Soho and beyond (Basquiat died at age twenty-eight). WhUe many of the poems, such as "Campbell's Black Bean Soup" and "Man-Made," celebrate Basquiat's Ufe and work, others, such as "City-as-School" and "Coke® (the Real Thing)," compticate the nature of the artist's achievement by looking unflinchingly at his drug abuse. Some of the most emotionally complex pieces treat the tensions of race, age and influence in Basquiat's relationship to Warhol. In "Shrine Outside Basquiat's Studio, September 1988," Young gives us a picture of the impact Basquiat's death had on those who loved him and his work: "folks pUe/candles flowers photos notes/to God & lace—/anything TO REPEL GHOSTS, keep/his going at bay/ before memory comes early, snarling /& sweeps him/into the mouth of euphemism—" To honor the jazz greats whom Basquiat frequently featured in his artwork, and for whom Young shares an equal regard, the book is laid out The Missouri Review · 203 as a five-sided double album ofsongs. In the "Liner Notes" section, Young describes the project as "an extended riff" on Basquiat's life and work. By focusing on Basquiat and by placing the poems within the jazz tradition, Young situates his book within the African American cultural tradition he so eloquently explores in his poems. Using Basquiat and his work as a starting point, Young lovingly yet unsentimentaUy chronicles the lives of many twentieth-century African American artists, entertainers and athletes . With his thoughtful portraits of other African American artists and performersandhisin-depth treatments of Warhol and the art world into which Basquiat was inducted, Young gives us a historical and aesthetic context in which to see Basquiat's Ufe and his achievements. My only complaint is that more of Basquiat's own work hasn't been reprinted alongside the poems. (MF) Reviews by: Jack Smith, Kim Ball, Peter Hanrahan, Jean Braithwaite, Colin Fleming , Jim Steck, Eva Pelkey, Marta Ferguson MR Lost Classic Long Remember by MacKinlay Kantor Tom Doherty/Forge, 2000, 376 pp., $14.95 (paper) The American historical novel is back. This may...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 203-204
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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