What a Piece of Work I Am

Eric Kraft, Author Crown Publishers $22 (275p) ISBN 978-0-517-59612-8
This new chapter in Kraft's Peter Leroy series, set in post WW II Babbington, Long Island, is a mazy, metafictional tale centered around Leroy's imaginary adolescent crush, the sultry, elusive and histrionic Ariane ``Tootsie'' Lodkochnikov. The novel opens as Ariane, on the verge of leaving Babbington, summons Leroy to her home to help recount her life there, from her waitressing job at a tacky clam bar to her friendship with Leroy's elderly grandparents to her prominence as a local avant-garde theater star. Leroy's story is a prism of overlapping narrative frames, including a preface in which he celebrates the powers of wishful thinking and recounts how he dreamt Ariane up; a series of synopses of films based on events in Ariane's life; cut-up passages from mythology and other ``found'' texts. Leroy delights in revising his narrative, often reaching an impasse (in one version, Ariane dies in a fire), then backing out and taking a different, sometimes bewildering turn. Indeed, Kraft tends to hit the reader over the head with his self-conscious narrative tricks and his comic touch is dampened by his homespun sentimentality, his gee-whiz, ironic asides and the sophomoric thrill he takes from every swing of Ariane's hips. Steadfast Peter Leroy fans will nevertheless enjoy the playful vitality with which he brings into being the fanciful characters of his imaginative east coast community. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/04/1994
Release date: 04/01/1994
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