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Tucson Weekly Blue Print

Move Over, Russ Baby.

By Stacey Richter

FEBRUARY 15, 1999: 

Blue Paige, by Danny Vinik (Gutter Press).

DANNY VINIK'S NEW novel, Blue Paige, is like a Russ Meyer movie set in print--fun, randy, over-the-top, and a little bit rough around the edges. A gang of lesbian bikers, a self-destructive porn star, a street hustler poet, and a brilliant map-maker join forces in this breezy tale of connections attempted but never quite made.

Our narrator Barry, a "white gay junkie nightclub doorman in Los Angeles," does too much dope, burns out, and leaves the city for the vast openness of the American Southwest. There he meets up with his brother Joe, a "black republican cartographer" and starts mapping the land around Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. But it seems that the land is more difficult to map than either Barry or Joe anticipated--the landmarks keep shifting, and Joe becomes obsessed with charting not places but events. Violent deaths, for example.

Then there's the little matter of a displaced porn star, Paige, and her shadowy lover known only as The Man From the West. These folks are bad news, but then everybody is bad news in Blue Paige, a novel where characters eat chocolate cake soaked in blood and have casual sex in laundromats between the wash and spin cycles. Vinik's style is deadpan, obsessive, and circling, as events, sexual encounters and accidents are described over and over from only slightly different viewpoints.

After a while it seems everybody has had sex with everybody else, with little adherence to their stated sexual preferences or even familial relationships. But the more sex Vinik describes, the more apparent it becomes that this obsessive clashing of bodies has failed to create anything but the most fleeting connection between the characters, just as their tireless mapping activities have failed to describe the land.

Blue Paige can be bleak, but it's funny too, and playful. The design of the book incorporates a series of different typefaces, as well as photographs by local artist Darren Clark. Vinik is a local writer, and it's a refreshing change to read a book set in our region that mixes porn stars and crackheads with the ubiquitous cactus and coyote. Blue Paige sometimes flounders when the plot runs thin, but Vinik always manages to catch himself by introducing some strange and disturbing tidbit--a buried motorcycle, for example, or Cortes showing up in a big American car. As Joy Williams says on the book jacket: "Exhilarating and weirdly satisfying."

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