cover image Ghost Waves

Ghost Waves

James McManus, Author Grove Press $0 (331p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1029-9

The late '80s America conjured by McManus in this incompletely achieved novel (after Chin Music ) is the familiar one of fast, speculative ``yuppie'' money, laconic teen culture and conspicuous material excess in an impersonal urban landscape. Pretty, alcoholic and not yet 19, Linda Krajacik studies at the Art Institute in Chicago, fantasizes she is a rock queen and is haunted by the bloody ghost of her father Michael, who died in Vietnam before she was born. At odds with her mother, who moves up from word processing to marriage to newly wealthy commodity broker Richard Baum, Linda is even more in conflict with her whiz-kid stepfather. Lurking anxiety frequently erupts in the form of waking and sleeping dreams embodying guilt, violence, shame and humiliation. All are haunted by Michael's ghost. Seamlessly woven into the narrative, these dreams lend a slightly eerie quality to the essentially uneventful storyline. A vague attempt is made at significance by way of fuzzy allusions to subatomic physics, but these asides do not produce coherence any more than do the idle verselets spliced between chapters. Unfortunately McManus makes nothing out of the promising contemporary themes implicit in the work, and his forceful style, good pacing and amusingly lifelike characterizatons are not enough to compensate for the fact that the story fizzles out. (October)