Picks and Pans Review: The Color of Light

UPDATED 06/04/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/04/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

by William Goldman

A young writer in college at Oberlin has an astonishing success: Because his best campus friend is the son of an important New York publisher, one of the hero's sad stories is printed in a literary magazine. A book of similar stories is soon published to critical acclaim. Then, although he has a nice advance for a big novel, the hero develops a case of writer's block. Is it because his alcoholic father killed himself? Is it because the hero feels guilty because his older brother died in infancy? Is it because the hero himself is an alcoholic? He marries the beautiful Texas girl whom he had idolized in college and immortalized in his first stories. He loves his wife's frightened 5-year-old daughter, who has a fiery birthmark on her face—he loves her perhaps too much. This novel also has a weird ex-model, a tough black cop, a psychopathic killer, a gorgeous (but unhappy) sex companion and an ongoing love-hate thing between the writer and the campus friend, who turns out to be a genius editor-publisher in his own right. Goldman—whose credits include 12 books of fiction (Marathon Man, Magic), three of nonfiction (Adventures in the Screen Trade), 11 screenplays (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and a children's book—is a shameless, sentimental writer who produces inept dialogue. The characters strain to top each other's lines as if they are standing around at a cocktail party, and all of them—men, women, old, young—have the same voice. Not for a moment does anyone in the book behave in a logical fashion. They whimsically bed each other, kill each other, go crazy or have a gourmet meal. The ending, in which the hero in a burst of inspiration whips out an outline for a novel that is like the mess the reader has just read, is a ridiculous device. One of the characters has a theory that we are living in an era of Trash, with a capital T. The Color of Light is a first-class example. (Warner, $17.50)

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