Kate Braverman, . . Seven Stories, $23.95 (235pp) ISBN 978-1-58322-469-4

Poet, short story writer and novelist Braverman (Lithium for Medea) delivers a wildly energetic, nearly hallucinatory account of Frida Kahlo, Mexican painter and wife of Diego Rivera. Frida is 46 and on her deathbed, addicted to morphine, Demerol, cigarettes and alcohol, and missing one leg from an amputation. Her memory is acute, though her chronology is foggy; in ecstatic prose she recounts the salient events of her adult life. At the age of 17, she suffers a horrific trolley accident and is impaled by a metal pole, which leaves her sterile, mutilated and more or less a pariah. Diego Rivera, the famous painter of monumental public works, notices her when she brings him lunches on his scaffolding; they marry and he transforms her into an international Marxist statement, parading her around the world in childlike peasant costumes. They are a wealthy, notorious "vaudeville team": Diego, ambitious and chronically unfaithful, belittles Frida's own paintings as "less than postcards," while foulmouthed Frida, raw from pain and addiction, scorns him as having the "heart of a butcher." Braverman keeps her jagged narrative from self-destructing by adhering to specific themes: Frida's desire for a daughter, as well as her personal and professional excoriation. Braverman's portrait of the "vanished woman"—including her cartoonish recreation of encounters Frida allegedly has with Trotsky and his wife—may put some readers off, but her work is commendably bold and strenuously imaginative, as befits her iconic subject. 3-city author tour.(Apr. 17)

Forecast: More than one fictional portrait exists of Frida Kahlo. Most recent is the novel Frida, by Barbara Mujica (Overlook, 2000; paperback Plume 2002), which would make an interesting pairup with Braverman's work in bookstore displays. All Kahlo-themed books, fiction and nonfiction, will get a boost this spring with the release (also in April) of Julie Taymor's film Frida, starring Salma Hayak.