September 16, 2001|By Reviewed by Carol Doup Muller, Special to the Sentinel
Vaudeville died because not everybody feels the aforementioned way as Mike Sharp, the beeline man who tells the adventures of a ball aggregation in Niagara Falls All Over Again.
“I admired watching added bodies perform. Don’t get me wrong, movies were the luckiest breach I anytime got, but I’d still rather see the clumsiest banana dabble amateur attempt in the beef with `The Flight of the Bumblebee’ than watch Heifetz on a screen. Bodies are so dear, in person. They accuse you in their talent.”
To apprehend Elizabeth McCracken is to be active in her talent. This novel, her second, mostly doesn’t work, but genitalia of it are so babyish that criticizing it seems as beggarly as booing an ardent violinist.
McCracken, as she did with her much-praised aboriginal novel, is alive with arbitrary actual actual about characters on the fringe. The Giant’s House, aggressive by a ancient sideshow attraction, was about the adulation of a damsel librarian for a boy destined to die of his gigantism. Niagara Falls All Over Again is about a Laurel-and Hardy-like affiliation played out in the era of amphitheater and aboriginal Hollywood. McCracken appears to be a able researcher, and if all the august tidbits she incorporates into a adventure were accent on the folio in altered typefaces, her novels would attending like bribe notes.
Alas, Niagara Falls has none of a bribe note’s coercion — not akin as it sets out to acknowledgment that abiding Hollywood question, Whatever happened to So-and-So? In this case, the catechism is asked about the ball aggregation of Carter and Sharp. The answer, anecdotal in the aboriginal person, comes from Mike Sharp, who fled a activity as a Des Moines haberdasher to accompany the amphitheater circuit. There actor Rocky Carter finds him, and a ball awareness is born.
Rocky, we learn, is a poor little affluent boy whose abstruse parents admired annihilation about him. Fat and — accordingly — athirst for approval, he’s the funny one. The one who, in the team’s best movie, will be affianced to a pony. Mike, built-in Mose, a motherless boy reared by indulgent sisters, leads a activity of arresting luck alternate by abhorrent griefs. Thin and haunted, he’s the beeline man — the one who wears a mortarboard and a “fussbudget expression,” the one who’ll cheep up an octave back their choir complete too alike.
Rocky is a consecutive bedmate and philanderer. Mike weds the sure-footed Jessica. (She’s a dancer, but added than that, she was built-in absolutely at home in the world.) Back the comedians part, Rocky will accelerate bottomward amidst bank debts to trailer-park obscurity, and Mike will abide one of Hollywood’s best abiding citizens. No one would anytime accusation Mike for the team’s breakup. No one except Rocky.
If that arbitrary appealing abundant gives abroad the accomplished story, it’s because there’s so little adventure to accord away. For a 300-page book that covers four or bristles decades in the lives of stunningly acclaimed people, Niagara Falls is appreciably chargeless of action. Moreover, one adventure that’s meant to be acute involves a babyish whose fate is so manipulated that she seems to accept been conceived for her marrow: an beginning artifice donor.
But every time the clairvoyant thinks to aloof shut the book and agilely airing abroad (with a funny walk, perhaps, in befitting with the theme), McCracken makes an ascertainment or sketches a appearance in such a way that a few added pages get turned. Conceivably it’s the addition of the rope-climbing “human cobra” Jack Robertson, “a monopede ballerina from Aberdeen who’d about confused his appropriate leg and larboard arm.” Conceivably it’s a heart-squeezing delineation of the V-J Day anniversary on Hollywood Boulevard.
Or conceivably it’s a attending into the kitchen drawer area one of Mike’s sisters kept domiciliary pamphlets and advisory tracts. ” `If you accept a question, aloof apprehend the pamphlet,’ Annie said, and the capacity of the drawer were so abstruse in my anamnesis that I sometimes believed my sisters were visited every ages by Reddy Kilowatt.”
That one popped up as backward as Folio 257, and it would accept been a abashment to absence it.
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