The Late Night Muse

Bette Pesetsky, Author HarperCollins Publishers $20 (261p) ISBN 978-0-06-018302-8
Pesetsky excels in creating offbeat characters with distinctive voices whose behavior is often obsessive if not slightly demented. Bernadette Amy Marrkey,spok the narrator of her latest novel (after Midnight Sweets ), is no exception. A self-styled poet (her work has been published only in obscure magazines), Marrkey learns in her late 30s that the wasting neurological disease from which she suffers will soon be fatal. Serenely confident that ``everyone loves a dead American artist,'' she decides to collate the artifacts of her life for benefit of the scholars who will surely want them once she is gone. The novel consists of episodic, chronologically random journal entries that correspond with the contents of the boxes she fills with the detritus of a very unorthodox existence. Bernadette's tough, streetwise, ironic voice is initially provocative as she catalogues her memories: abandonment by her unwed, ditzy mother to the care of her brisk, unsentimental grandmother (the latter a wonderful portrayal); encounters with a series of mentors, lovers and odd characters; marriage to an accountant, and children. Eventually, however, her delivery becomes tedious. While Pesetsky's comic eye is often piercingly acute, the novel is ultimately too arch and improbable, the plot clever but too obviously manipulated to fit the central device. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-06-098416-8
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