Skin

Kathe Koja, Author Delacorte Press $19.95 (309p) ISBN 978-0-385-30899-1
This humorless novel about art punks in an unnamed present-day city is long on form and short on content. The main character, Tess Bajac, is an earnest young sculptor who lives for her work, so much so that readers may well long for her to do something besides make anther sculpture. She does all too rarely. Tess meets Bibi Bloss, a fey dancer, and they establish Surgeons of the Demolition, a performance art troupe whose shows combine Tess's mobile, menacing, robotlike constructions with Bibi's dancers and much fake blood. Koja devotes endless pages to details of their productions, and the vicissitudes of the protagonists' relationship have to suffice for drama. Their main source of conflict is Bibi's growing compulsion to mortify her flesh via piercing, tattooing and scarification. Readers will find it hard to relate to such a rarefied concern, especially since the roots of Bibi's obsession are never explored. Koja ( The Cipher ) has a considerable talent for evoking atmosphere, but her style, an obscurantist mix of stark minimalism and florid gush, further distances the characters from the reader and hampers the novel's already minimal movement. The ending is merely a jarring, long-overdue bit of business; on the whole the novel, like the art of the characters it portrays, is a sustained exercise in style over substance. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1993
Release date: 02/01/1993
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