Is there anything creepier than a ventriloquist's dummy? With their rosy cheeks and knowing eyes, they really do possess a certain, let's say, humanness. From the time I read William Goldman's Magic in the late '70s, I couldn't look at my toy Charlie McCarthy doll the same way.
I recently saw a film called "The Ten," which is made up of 10 vignettes, each of which illustrates one of the 10 Commandments. In the "Thou Shalt Not Steal" story, Winona Ryder (oh, the irony) becomes so enchanted with a ventriloquist's dummy on her honeymoon that she stops at nothing to have it for herself — and by "have" I mean ... well, let's not go there. Let us just agree that no good can come from interacting with people made of wood.
But I digress. Wesley Stace — known to music fans as John Wesley Harding — has written By George (Little, Brown, 378 pages, $24.99) ...
... the follow-up to his 2005 debut novel, Misfortune.
The title refers to two Georges, one an 11-year-old boy from a longtime show business family who's sent off to boarding school in 1973. The other George is a ventriloquist's dummy created in 1930, who narrates his own story. And just like a stage-show dummy can make you think he's really doing the talking, Stace pulls off the same stunt with George the Dummy's voice.
I'm only about a chapter and a half into the book, but plan to keep reading to see how and when the two Georges meet and what family secrets are revealed.