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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 19, 1979)
monday, november 19, 1979
Book probes paradoxes;
By Scott Kleager
"You only go around once in. life. . ."
says the television commercial. Most of us
would like to believe that, but judging by
the cautious way we conduct our lives,
deep down nearly all of us cling to the idea
that somehow if we take it easy, our lives
just may last forever. But there is a rare
brand of humanoid out there that really
lives like there is no tomorrow.
- Bart Darling, a main character in John
Nichols' new novel A Ghost in the Music,
exemplifies this kind of person.
A fast-moving, capitalist who's rich as
dirt, big, handsome and strong as a bull,
Bart is a 47-year-old Hollywood stuntman
and grade-B movie producer. With a Mer
cedes, a big Harley and plenty of money to
go along with it, Bart Darling (as his name
implies) is a society girl's dream.
A Ghost in the Music is a weaving of
paradoxes around Darling. First paradox:
Bart lives like there's no tomorrow. He
rarely sleeps, drives like a maniac, and dis
plays bursts of energy that would leave a 4-year-old
in awe. But, even though he lives
as though he must do everything soon or
miss something before the end, he insists
that he'll never die.
SECOND PARADOX: Bart, of course,
has always been a womanizer, whenever
and with whomever he wants. But at the
start of the novel, we learn that he has
fallen in love with a skinny, poor, average
looking country" and western singer.
Lorraine, the singer, is tough and deter
mined to make it on her own in the music
business. Bart could easily be her ticket.
She is morally responsible, but he is not.
The contrasts go on and on. Suffice it to
say that not only is she different from any
other woman Bart has "loved," but she is
actually his own antithesis.
Third paradox: Bart's illegitimate son,
Marcel, who is narrator of the story, loves
his father and at the same time hates him.
Marcel's mother is a Communist who raises
Marcel in an atmosphere of stark ideologi
cal reality. No television, stereos or fancy
clothes. Bart, on the other hand, is the
ideal American capitalist, imperializing
anyone who wants his cash.
DURING MARCEL'S childhood he
periodically visits his father and eventually
falls in love with his lavish lifestyle. But as
Marcel becomes an adult he realizes that
his father is killing himself living as he does
and begins to hate him.
Nichols is excellent at combining char
'acter construction and theme. He uses ac
tions to form characters and characters to
create themes that bounce off each other
like pool balls at the break.
Lorraine and Bart constantly fight but
love each other in a way inversely propor
tional to their actions. Bart's lifestyle
constantly clashes with Marcel's Commun
ist upbringing, paving the way for the
author's brilliantly constructed; believable
ideological conversations between the two
men. This aspect of writing is difficult to
accomplish but Nichols does it better than
most. After reading this novel, one is
tempted to say that he may be one of the
best at it. .
Stylistically, it's no surprise that A
Ghost in the Music is a combination of
opposites, being both funny and sad.
Nichols' sense of humor offsets the sad
content of the novel. Even the picture of
the author on the back cover would make
the most dull of critics smirk.
It appears that Nichols' truth could be
objectively bipolar. He seems to say that in
nearly everyone, everything and every ac
tion, there are paradoxes.
With a statement such as A Ghost in the
Music, John , Nichols sets himself above
most of America's young writers by his
realistic portrayal of life.
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STUDENTS . . .
Ombudsman applications for
spring semester are now
Application deadline: Monday, Nov. 19th -12 noon
Salary $200 a month
The ombudsman is the internal monitor of the
Daily Nebraskan. He critiques the newspaper on
matters of balance, fairness, accuracy and pro
fessional standards. Applicants should be
familiar with the Guidelines for the Student
Press adopted by the NU Board of Regents.
(Copies available upon request)
Resumes should be submitted to and applications
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