The Fortuneteller: A Jest

Mac Wellman, Author Sun & Moon $11.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-55713-033-4
This jaundiced look at the world of Reagan-era downtown Manhattan bohemia apparently aims to be a modern version of the 16th-century ``jest book''--a series of short, witty, often ribald stories that nonetheless teach moral lessons through the lives of hapless characters--but doesn't quite reach its mark. The Fortuneteller is a failed-poet-turned-editor whose cronies include a bitter art critic, a pretentious avant-garde artist and various hangers-on. Obie Award-winning playwright Wellman's ( Bad Penny ) first novel has them spending time at a bar called The Predicament, going to parties, engaging in casual sex, trying to find themselves, and shouting, ``Meaning! I ask you: at this late date, how do you come to demand, of all things, meaning?'' Unfortunately, the author begs this question with a subplot about a murderer named Lovelace who always leaves with his victims a poem by the English cavalier poet of the same name. Sometimes it appears that Wellman wants to connect this random violence with the random, cynical lives he describes; elsewhere, it seems his only message is that his characters' heyday was ``a good time to be alive, if you were white and young and had a lot of money.'' (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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