Public Life

Ellen Akins, Author HarperCollins Publishers $20 (280p) ISBN 978-0-06-016753-0
After a slow, needlessly confusing beginning, Akins ( Home Movie ) manages to achieve an admirably graceful and tightly plotted novel of ideas, only to spoil it with a contrived denouement. Asked by presidential candidate Henry Anderson to direct his media campaign, former filmmaker Ann Matter teams up with Peter Daniel, a poet who sculpts Anderson's words for the voters, to create an immaculately honed public image, the perfect media abstraction of a president. When their man actually wins the election, however, that image begins to dissolve as the press uncovers information about the ``real'' Anderson. The narrative gains speed, cohesion and power from an increasingly complex storyline and the well-drawn protagonists; Ann and Peter are multifaceted, evolving characters who raise cerebral, resonating questions about politics, advertising, the media, the nature of identity and much more. Evocative ideas, provocative prose, telling details and forcefully charged dialogue compensate for the fact that the characters' theorizing isn't always smoothly integrated with the plot. Unfortunately, the book closes with an incredibly coincidental and entirely contrived series of ill-fitting dramatic twists more suited to a TV-movie than to this intellectually challenging, albeit seriously flawed novel. ( May )
Reviewed on: 03/29/1993
Release date: 04/01/1993
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-06-092180-4
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