The Lost Coast

Steven Christopher, Author, Steven Nightingale, Author
Steven Christopher, Author, Steven Nightingale, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (259p) ISBN 978-0-312-14007-6
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In the manner of a contemporary Canterbury Tales, this sensuous, hyperkinetic first novel takes a charismatic group of wanderers across the American West. Who are these pilgrims? Cookie, a hash-slinger and cowgirl, who's left her husband; Juha, a contractor ""so burly that giant sequoias wanted mistakenly to pollinate him""; a voluptuous polymath professor and her equally enticing 16-year-old daughter; an erotically gifted Jamaican journalist with ""soft heat in his hands and salt waves in his step""; a high-powered lawyer named Ananda; and lovestruck painter Renato. Gathered by chance at a dusty bar in the Great Basin region of Nevada, they throw in together on the spur of the moment, out of a fundamental spiritual lust, and decide to search for California's Lost Coast. What they find is stories. Some are told by bartenders, others by shamans or animals-fantastical tales about adolescent girls who turn out to be angels, about fishermen pulling up islands from the bottom of the sea and coyotes who visit the house of the wind. However, once the pilgrims settle down in a town somewhat shy of their original destination, the story loses zip as the players decide to open the ""Improvisational Hurricane Theater Troupe"" and tell stories of their own. Danger encroaches on this odd road carnival, but even the dark moments have light shadings, precisely because Nightingale takes happy liberties with distinctions between the real and the unreal, charmingly obscuring the difference between telling stories and living in them. (Mar.)
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