Barbara Wersba Kirkus Reviews - Essay

Kirkus Reviews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Unsuccessfully bittersweet but sometimes funny, [The Carnival in my Mind] tells of 14-year-old prepschool misfit Harvey Beaumont's brief, smitten interlude with Chandler Brown, 20, a shabby-elegant would-be actress who seems cast from a worn-out Sally Bowles-Holly Golightly mold. Harvey, who feels unlovable because he's short—and because his mother is devoted to her Irish setters, but barely acknowledges his existence—is delighted to be taken seriously by the rakishly glamorous Chan (or so he sees her); and when the dogs that crowd his mother's Fifth Avenue apartment get too much for him, he moves into Chan's apartment…. Harvey and Chan get along well, enjoy their domestic routine despite her heavy sherry drinking, sleep together chastely, and basically live on his allowance—though every now and then she turns up with a mysterious wad to spend at Cartier's, Saks, or the Plaza. Harvey is crushed to learn from a vindictive third party how Chan earns the money, but he sticks with her until, crushed herself after a terrible performance off-off-Broadway, she decides to return to Grosse Pointe, Michigan…. Chan is a tawdry, one-dimensional character, but the novel is entertaining when it takes itself less seriously. Holmes [the manservant], with a smaller role, is a more effective type character; [and] Harvey's mother's preoccupation with the dogs makes for an amusing caricature…. [This] is the sort of glamour fantasy that makes for easy, undisturbing escape. (pp. 874-75)

A review of "The Carnival in My Mind," in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. L, No. 15, August 1, 1982, pp. 874-75.