Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Book Review: 'Fabulous!: An Opera Buffa' by Laury A. Egan
‘Illusion was my stock and trade.’
New Jersey author Laury A. Egan has won honors for her work ("The Outcast Oracle" was named as a "Best of 2013" books by Kirkus Reviews), and has published poetry collections, short stories psychological suspense and now high comedy with FABULOUS: AN OPERA BUFFA. Her work has received nominations for two Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Web, Best of the Net, and has appeared in over 35 literary journals.
Laury’s polished prose happens to adapt very well to parody and genuine comedy, creating characters that once me are unforgettable. In this delightful comedy adventure she opens with all her forces in place – ‘Kiri De Uwana - My psychic medium told me that it was just a matter of time. Although Madame Clara didn’t elaborate on the details and said that her timelines might be a trifle off, she was absolutely positive that 2009 would be the year, confirmed by the Ouija board spirit enumerating 009. Well, that was good enough for me, Kiri De Uwana, diva divine! The bright lights were going to become downright dazzling. My stiletto heels barely touched the sidewalk as I walked home after the session. I didn’t attend to most of the whistles and catcalls from the hot men on the street, though I did flutter my pink chiffon scarf at one hunky black boy who was pile-driving to beat the band. On another day I might have invited him up for a mint julep, but today I had other things on my mind. By the way, my name is Gilbert Eugene Rose. Although I don’t advertise my place of birth, I hail from the side of Atlantic City sans glamour. Except for music, my childhood was a perpetual winter, one I hurried through with desperate speed. Being a gay boy and, I modestly confess, a beauty—blond hair the color of sunlight, dark blue eyes like glittering jewels, fair skin perfect as cream, and refined features (nothing too large or too small, ahem!)—I was shunned by the girls because they were jealous and taunted by the boys because I was not sufficiently rough and tumble, though a little tumble now and then held occasional appeal. My escape happened after high school, when opera called yoo-hoo. I fled to the first of several music schools, leaving my mother to tend to her inebriations (my father had departed many years before). After absorbing the collective wisdom of the finest vocal, diction, and language teachers, I packed my makeup, wigs, and hats and took the bus home—my new home, New York City. That was eleven years ago. Now, at age thirty-four, I am broke, or nearly, but after emptying my purse, turning all of my pockets inside out, and searching through every hidey hole in my apartment, I have just enough cash to pay for a lesson with my voice coach, Anna Marie, who thinks I’m a soprano. Well, sort of. Anna Marie is in her eighties and didn’t eat her carrots when she was young—if you get my drift. Frankly, I don’t see how she can play the piano in her semi-blind condition, but she plunks away nicely with her arthritic fingers. Anyway, she knows her stuff (even if she can’t tell I’m not a female soprano) and loves my voice and appreciates the perfume samples I liberate from Oscar’s, the department store where I dress the mannequins.’
Where will this drag queen take us? The plot synopsis hints: ‘Gil is a talented opera singer who moonlights as a drag queen to pay his rent. Like others, he's dying to become famous on the New York operatic stage; unfortunately he might get his wish when he lands lead roles as a soprano and tenor in separate productions and is also hired to sing Handel by a dangerous female gangster who is at war with the producer of one of the two operas. Suddenly happy-go-lucky Gil finds himself stranded in the middle of Mobster Boulevard, aflutter in heels, dresses, and wigs with only his wits for protection and a new romance for inspiration.’
Just the right blend of howling comedy with a hefty dollop of intrigue, FABULOUS! Is fabulous. A real winner for the talented Laury A. Egan. Highly recommended.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.