A Year of Rhymes

Bernard Cooper, Author Viking Books $20 (240p) ISBN 978-0-670-84732-7
The kitschy splendor of Los Angeles circa 1960 forms the backdrop for a bittersweet first novel by essayist Cooper, who won a PEN/Hemingway Award for Maps to Anywhere. In a low-key, confident voice frequently enlivened by verbal razzle-dazzle, 11-year-old Burt, youngest son of a close-knit Jewish family, describes the year in which he takes his first steps towards the complex, mysterious realm of adulthood. Dismayed by awakening homosexual feelings, Burt tries `` dividing everything on earth into its appropriate category--His, Hers--so that I knew what I mustn't like or do.'' Eventually he realizes, however, that ``so much of the world doesn't fit neatly into either camp: clocks, weeds, Wonder bread, our two-tone hi-fi.'' Attempting to define his own orientation, Burt carefully and thoughtfully observes the various adults around him, especially his beloved older brother Bob, whose battle with leukemia foreshadows the onslaught of AIDS. Burt's happily married parents furnish a bit of comic relief: his mother is a loyal Queen for a Day fan, his father a divorce lawyer specializing in oddball suits like ``The Case of the Baking Newlywed.'' Cooper's pleasure in displaying a fancy phrase occasionally gets the best of him, but for the most part his prose is as simple and stunning as his insight. ( Aug. )
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-14-017403-8
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