by D. Foy
A book review by weird speculative fiction author Ted Fauster
It’s the summer of 1973. No cellphones. No Internet. No worries.
And no clothes…
ABSOLUTELY GOLDEN follows the slow but steady cosmic awakening of Rachel, a mousy, middle-aged schoolteacher who, years after the numbing death of her husband, has allowed herself to be drawn into the parasitic orbit of obnoxious hedonist, Jack, a disgustingly charming character written so perfectly by Foy I could not divorce myself from the thought of Jeff Bridges carrying its weight. A bit of a stick in the mud, Rachel agrees to attend Camp Freedom Lake, a nudist colony in Northern California with Jack, and his ecdysiast “cousin” Jenny.
For me, Sharon Tate took on the persona of this demure woman turned radiant folk hero. Understandably apprehensive but emboldened, Rachel begins her journey by dying her hair a magnificent shade of gold. Little does she know, her entire world is about to be transformed.
This book shines, capturing the Magnavox gleam of the early ’70s in all its daft and sometimes dippy grandeur. Up at camp, a quirky cast of comedic perfection appears from out of the woodwork, plying for the attention of the radiant new goddess that is Rachel. Still uncomfortable in this new role, but willing to try it on, Rachel finds herself growing and transforming into an entirely different creature, while coming to grips with some stark realities hidden beneath the crusted veneer of her previous life.
It becomes clear, early on, that Rachel herself feels invisible, pushed along by tidal forces beyond her control and slowly drifting out to sea. All she wants is to be wanted. And, for once in her life, to be truly seen:
[…This went on, like some diabolical Mobius strip, until one Oakland night–one very hollow West Oakland night, I might add–a man in a bar walked right through me, the way ghosts are said to walk through walls. Finally, I understood….]
ABSOLUTELY GOLDEN is a Shakespearean odyssey, gifted with a bounteous amount of Dickensian dialogue and inner monologue that drips like honey:
[…”There was once a man,” he said, “whose love went unrequited for years. He’d tried everything to win his beloved, from serenading her in the moony light to sending her gifts of silver and gold and other shiny things….”]
It also has its fair share of pulp ’70s denim chic:
[…”And that’s cool, too, man, he’s pretty funky for an old jive-ass cat like that you know, duck, I mean, what with his going around without any pants and that….”]
This book is heavily dosed with all sorts of off-the-wall good humor, as well. And it would be a crime to take it too seriously. But maybe, like, that’s whole point, man!
For what’s its worth, this is one righteous read, and I am down, Charlie Brown. And I do mean, I can really dig it.