The Black Swan

Jerome Charyn, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-312-20877-6
A phantasmagoric medium by definition, movies appeal to us because they are literal projections of our deepest fantasies and fears, according to film critic and novelist Charyn. In a sequel to his acclaimed memoir, The Dark Lady from Belorusse, the author transports us to his early teen years in the Bronx, when he first discovered his obsession with the movies while seeking refuge from his difficult home life. Charyn's narrative resists the tired convention in which a misunderstood teen finds salvation in a fantasy world; instead, his memories of his early fascination with film unfold as a surreal, funny, often deeply disturbing reverie. Playing hooky from school, Charyn would sneak into the local movie palace to watch Hedy Lamarr and Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah until he met the theater's owners, three draft-evading, possibly gay gangsters who lived in the basement. Charyn regales us with stories about Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky, problems with Charyn's probation officer at school, a gay fireman named Dan O'Brian and the Black Swan, ""the most celebrated casino and country club in the Catskill mountains."" As the narrator dreamily reenacts plots from 1940s films, these characters and places move in and out of his hallucinatory reminiscences, while Charyn delicately weaves together movies, memories and intensely personal myths to re-create the daring and dangerous realm of his childhood imagination from the vantage point of an adult. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
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