Gulliver Quick begins with the title character’s death. Immediately thereafter, five women present at the scene claim to be the sole murderer, thus establishing the exciting backdrop to a detailed chronological account of Quick’s colorful, turbulent life as a prominent artist whose appetites are strong, whose achievements are great, and whose adventures, carefully tied to actual 20th-century events, span four centuries.
An Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker stumbles in her first novel, a ponderous and pretentious account of a painter bedeviled by the women in his life. It opens with the eponymous protagonist lying dead on the floor of a house in Portofino, stabbed with a pair of dressmaker's scissors by one of the many women from his past who have conveniently converged at the scene of the crime. Inadequate as a mystery--the perpetrator is obvious after about 50 pages--the narrative also fails as fictional biography: it is tedious, clumsy, filled with casual misogyny and historical errors. Clumsy aphorisms mimic the worst of Hemingway (``a young man needs to hunt and bleed'') and do nothing to alleviate the cartoonish quality of the characters. Even more exasperatingly, Earl frequently stops the action to explain the thoughts and motivations of each character in pompous prose, doubling the length of the book without illuminating its theme. ( Jan. )