Book by Bell-Villada, Gene H.
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The first half of Bell-Villada's wry, erudite collection (billed as a satire on "the minimalist school of art") describes the misadventures of Dickie Dickerson, an American growing up in Puerto Rico who goes on to attend universities in America. Dickie's experiences?losing an older friend because Dickie dares to correct him in front of one of his romantic prospects, winning a record in a radio music contest, then finding that it will not fit on his phonograph?are not earth-shattering, but Bell-Villada (Borges and His Fiction) makes them glow with his attention to personal detail. After this patchwork portrait, the latter half of the book is a more engaging mix of fiction and satirical essays. When Bell-Villada pushes his tongue too far into his cheek, his jokes fall flat (a New York Review-style article titled "Hitler Reconsidered"; a pseudo-Borgesian philological article written on an island whose residents have lost all audible speech). Other pieces are more successful. The poignant title story consists of letters from a youth who emulates Ayn Rand's heroes until (surprise, surprise) his selfishness backfires. What such stories lack in subtlety they make up for in verve and escapist charm. (Jan.) FYI: Bell-Villada's history of aestheticism, Art for Art's Sake and Literary Life, was a finalist for last year's National Book Critics Circle Award.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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