Niagara

Richard Watson, Author
Richard Watson, Author Coffee House Press $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-56689-006-9
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-57121-003-6
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Watson's ( The Runner ) sparkling, delightful new novel--about a French tightrope walker and a widowed Nebraska schoolteacher who meet in Niagara Falls, N.Y., become lovers, perform daredevil stunts and go their separate ways--is a witty meditation on miscommunication between the sexes. French high-wire artist ``The Great Gravelet'' fancies himself an embodiment of perfection and a gallant ladies' man. Anna Taylor, cigar-smoking, obese, grittily independent and 15 years Gravelet's senior, becomes a prop in his act: he strings a cable across the Whirlpool Rapids next to Niagara Falls and pushes her across in a wheelbarrow on Independence Day 1901. Later Anna, determined to be known for something and unable to convince Gravelet to teach her the wire, becomes the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel and survive. The two accidentally meet again in 1921, in a sad, grotesque reunion. The story is told first by Gravelet and then by Anna, in wildly divergent narratives that interweave sprightly commentaries on art, mortality, women's inferior social status and the differences between an ethereal Continental consciousness and rock-solid American pragmatism. In this assured, witty, imaginative novel, Watson effectively uses the high wire and the Falls plunge as metaphors for the intrepid navigations of life. (Apr.)
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