(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Disappearing Acts has been called an urban romance. It is, in essence, simply another New York City love story, as funny as the best works of Neil Simon. Underneath the wisecracks, the idiotic behavior, and the foolish misunderstandings that qualify McMillan’s novel as a romantic comedy there is a serious exploration of the nature of human relationships.

It is never easy for one person to love another; when two people differ as much as the lovers in Disappearing Acts, it is particularly difficult. Zora Banks is an educated, ambitious black woman, a gifted singer and songwriter who is supporting herself temporarily by teaching music in a junior high school. Franklin Swift is a construction worker with a high school equivalency diploma who for years has been thinking about going to night school and starting his own business. He has as yet done nothing about it. As Zora soon finds out, however, there is more to Franklin than his striking good looks and his talent for lovemaking. He is responsible; he does his best to support the wife from whom he is not yet divorced and the two children he had with her. He is generous; early in their relationship, he surprises Zora with three hundred dollars so that she can get her piano out of layaway. He is intelligent; even though he never finished high school, he can beat Zora at every word game they play. Moreover, in his attitude toward woodworking, Franklin exhibits the same kind of artistic...

(The entire section is 565 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Disappearing Acts is an urban love story. The novel provides a realistic portrayal of a relationship between a black man and woman struggling to find their place in life separately and together.

Disappearing Acts is written in the first person. The chapters alternate between Zora and Franklin’s point of view, chronicling their relationship over the course of two and a half years.

The novel begins with Franklin’s monologue. He is a construction worker and carpenter who never graduated from high school; he is looking to start his own business so that he does not have to depend on white people for work. He has been hurt in relationships before and plans to remain romantically uninvolved until he gets his “foundation” set up. Zora’s monologue reveals that she’s also “taking a sabbatical” from the opposite sex and concentrating on her singing career. Both of them are lonely, and when they meet, it is love at first sight.

The novel moves rapidly, as does their relationship: Before long, Franklin has moved in with Zora, and they are spending most of their time together. The plot is propelled by the ups and downs of their relationship as they move from suspicion to trust, from secrets to revelations. Franklin is still married, although he has not lived with his wife in six years. Zora gets seizures, but she has not had one in four years. Each feels lucky to have found the other, and the first six chapters of the book are optimistic.

Gradually, Franklin’s inability to find steady work starts to eat at him and at Zora. He ruins her birthday because he is unhappy with himself...

(The entire section is 673 words.)