My Life in Action Painting

J. B. Miller, Author Grove/Atlantic $19.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1176-0
Miller's central character and presumptive alter ego Jabes Miller is 26 and ``waiting to explode'' in this uneven first novel. Nothing has worked out for him on his return from Europe to a perplexing and surreal New York City, where he can't hold down a job, squanders the subsidies provided by his indulgent parents, and faces the standard roommate horrors in his cramped Greenwich Village apartment. And then there are his women--all disasters. He careens from an indifferent Park Avenue bitch to a German waitress fond of Wagner before fleeing back to London, which allows him to draw trans-Atlantic comparisons (New York offers a poor choice between ``corruption and destitution,'' while the point of life in Europe is ``to stay alive, as loudly as possible''). There, Jabes's wild life also includes visitations by characters from paintings by Manet, Degas and Van Gogh. Still, London, in the end, provides no salvation as Jabes continues to drift to the margins of society while pursuing an unsuccessful dalliance with a dance student. New York ultimately reclaims him; he affects a re-entry into the working world and ``real life.'' While at times amusing, this account of upper-middle-class angst suffers from an irritating mixture of forced zaniness and sophomoric philosophizing. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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