Thinking Abt Magritte

Kate Sterns, Author, Shelley Wagner, Editor Pantheon Books $19 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-41207-6
The reader dips into a pool of brightly tinted cartoon images in these 20 dadaist sketches, randomly juxtaposed to reflect the charmingly infantile mind of the hydrocephalic Midnight Cowboy, 30. He lives in Limestone (the epigraph cites a poem by W. H. Auden explaining the name: ``this land is not the sweet home that it looks''), where the interchangeability of prisons, hospitals, a mental asylum and a university deepens his sense that he is jailed in an addled head. Midnight Cowboy's dead mother was a beautician; his fantasies bring her back to life and enable him to re-enter her body through a slit in her skin. The tale's flat, capricious characters are like toys in an aging child's nursery: Frank, a 54-year-old pregnant man; teenage Maxine, who intrigues Midnight Cowboy with her ``black hair lazy as a cat cross her shoulders.'' Other figures seem to rise from Midnight Cowboy's watery brain: Old River, who kept a pet snake when his name was Adam Whitelake; the acrobatic Gonzino Bay; and even Maxine, who grows a fish tail. The narrative advances with zany logic: characters playfully pelt one another with vivid non sequiturs. But there is little behind the author's whimsy and poetic language to sustain interest. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1992
Release date: 05/01/1992
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