Dream of Venus (or Living Pictures)

Miles Beller, Author, Miles Beller, Foreword by CM Publishing $24.95 (298p) ISBN 978-0-9663480-0-2
The New York World's Fair of 1939 was conceived as an efflorescence of modernist style, hitched to a utopian vision of the future. Beller's novel alternates between the adventures of an ahead-of-his-time Greenwich Village artist named Zeke Lichtenquist, who is an official fair caricaturist, and sequences involving Grover Whalen, who was the real-life president of the exposition. Whalen is seen conferring an award on Albert Einstein, fighting bad press and trying to fight commercialism. Zeke, whose surname combines those of Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, is a pop artist before pop was a sensibility, fascinated by cartoons, advertising and the crass, bright colors of consumerism. The novel challenges the distinction between fiction and fact by including a carefully researched catalogue of exhibits, in which phantasmagoric scenarios mingle with historic discoveries: a group of tourists are baffled by Dali's sculptures in the Dream of Venus exhibit, and Zeke encounters such new inventions as television and Viewmaster. Futurama's World of 1960 and Tomorrow Village offer humorous futuristic glimpses, while a mob of ""fun seekers"" reverts to beastly behavior, gang-raping and mutilating a woman. As Zeke zigzags between the art he is making in his apartment and his job at the fair, the manic lists of consumer goods, jingles, pop songs and news reports threatens to overwhelm this unconventional tale with material clutter. Although Beller sometimes extracts too facile an irony from obsolete slogans and products, at his best his writing stimulates a surrealistic rush. 5-city author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
Paperback - 322 pages - 978-0-615-64764-7
Paperback - 322 pages - 978-1-4781-6071-7
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