cover image Charlie Peace: A Fable

Charlie Peace: A Fable

Paul Pickering. Random House (NY), $20 (309pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58544-4

A bizarre, wildly surreal fantasy that lampoons Christianity and organized religion, this convoluted tale makes Salvador Dali's psychospiritual rantings look tame. Narrator Jack Peachey, an English burglar hailed by thousands as the true Jesus, turns talcum powder into cocaine and causes the clothes of women around him to dematerialize. Jack is a disciple of a religious cultist, a former Kansas farmboy who became a lion tamer in a circus with Christian revivalist themes and who assumed the name of the circus manager, Charlie Peace, after the latter's death in a fire on the island of Tobago. Peachey goes to seedy Manhattan to track down Peace and a miniature crystal talisman linked to the medieval Albigensian heresy. There Jack meets Ottoline Ottolyne, an heirless linked to the Church of the Millennium, a heretical cult which uses sex as a sacrament. Interrupting these shenanigans are anachronistic retellings of the Gospels narrated by Jack, now charged with murder and imprisoned on Rikers Island, N.Y. Pickering ( Blue Gate of Babylon ) overworks parody and sacrilegious gags to serve his theme that every true believer is a natural heretic. (Sept.)