cover image The Colorist

The Colorist

Susan Daitch. Vintage Books USA, $8.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-72492-6

Daitch's ( L.C. ) second novel never stops talking about itself. The title refers to Julie Greene, a melancholy young art school graduate living in New York City's East Village who colors the frames of the comic strip Electra . Julie's every encounter with high or low culture, from Egyptian hieroglyphics to a prostitute's little black book, is a chance to discuss the story she's telling and the way stories are told. When Electra is discontinued, Julie and co-worker Laurel Quan Liu write the strip themselves, turning Electra into an amnesiac wandering through their own troubled neighborhood. As Electra's adventures increasingly resemble Julie's, Laurel accuses her of representing their creation ``as if she had no will of her own, or whatever bit of will she did possess was nearly useless.'' Julie herself remains exhaustingly and inexplicably passive--the meager plot here is driven by chance meetings and unexpected phone calls. Despite some finely wrought insights, Daitch never convinces us that Julie's situation is as inevitable or as unalterable as she wants us to believe. (Jan.)