Mr. Vertigo

Paul Auster, Author Viking Books $21.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-670-85209-3
It will come as no surprise to the gifted Auster's ( Moon Palace ; The Music of Chance ) many fans that walking on air, the implausible premise of his marvelously whimsical seventh novel, is treated with convincing gravity. Walt Rawley recounts his life: an orphan born in 1924 with ``the gift,'' he was seized by his master, Mr. Yehudi, a Hungarian Jew who taught him to levitate. Yehudi takes the boy from St. Louis to his own Kansas menage, which consists of Mother Sioux and Aesop, a young black genius. (Also influencing Walt's life is classy, henna-headed Marion Witherspoon, a seductive mom figure from Wichita.) After harsh training, Walt tours with his mentor as ``the Wonder Boy,'' aka Mr. Vertigo. Crammed into this road saga is the potent Americana of myth: the 1920s carnival circuit, Lindbergh's solo, the motorcar, the ethnic mix, the Ku Klux Klan and the Mob, baseball and Kansas, ``land of Oz.'' Diverse mishaps descend, but eventually Walt glides into old age and writing. The characters speak a lusty lingo peppered with vintage slang, while a postmodern authorial irony tugs their innocence askew. The prose grows particularly electric when demystifying ``loft and locomotion.'' Implicit is an analogy between levitation and the construct of fiction: both require fierce discipline to maintain a fleeting illusion. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
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