B0867. MAWRDEW CZGOWCHWZ. James McCourt. New York, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1975. 230pp. First Hardcover Edition, stated; DJ - 0374513619
Diva Mawrdew Czgowchwz (pronounced Mardu Gorgeous) bursts like the most brilliant of comets onto the international opera scene, only to confront the deadly malice and black magic of her rivals. Outrageous and uproarious, flamboyant and serious as only the most perfect frivolity can be, James McCourt's entrancing send-up of the world of opera has been a cult classic for more than a quarter-century. This comic tribute to the love of art is a triumph of art and love by a contemporary American master. Debuting in 1971, McCourt's comedic novel takes on the world of opera through title character Mawrdew Czgowchwz, who finds herself both the darling of fans and the bane of other divas, who are less than welcoming and maternal to the new star. There are few opera parodies out there, so this should appeal to fans.
- Library Journal
McCourt is the author of perhaps the best novel about opera.
- Publishers Weekly
McCourt makes brave comic choices, delighting in mythic celebrity while dissecting the ways it is made and sustained. Bravo! Encore!
- John Lahr
"Mawrdew Czgowchwz is a Zuleika Dobson of the opera world. James McCourt is an ecstatic fabulist, robustly funny and inventive, and touchingly in love with his subject. His novel is both special and precious, in the most honorable senses of those words.
A gloriously flamboyant debut. Take it in spoonfuls and youll find passages to fall in love with. Sooner or later, you may even find yourself reading them aloud to your friends.
- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, THE NEW YORK TIMES
McCourt's language is lush and dense, filled with theatrical in-jokes, allusions and asides in French, German, Italian and Latin; much is emphasized to further exaggerate the tone, which veers wildly (but subtly) from the campy to the dramatic and even melancholic, mixing high culture with a certain winking obscenity familiar to anyone even remotely versed in the old code of non-heterosexual relations. For someone like myself, a relative latecomer to the operatic (and non-heterosexual) fold, it's probably fair to say that I missed at least fifty to eighty percent of these references, which in no way curtailed my appreciation for the learned hilarity on display. The character names struck me as being as much Pynchonesque - The Secret Seven (Mawrdew's most devoted admirers), Halcyon Q. Paranoy (the music critic), the Dame Sybill Farewell-Tarnysh - as Firbankian, while the tone of the book seemed to effortlessly walk a fine line that on the whole felt less frivolous than Firbank and less soulless than Pynchon (if equally dazzling in terms of the crystalline prose).
- Matthew Gallaway
McCourt is best known for his extravagant novel MAWRDEW CZGOWCHWZ (1975), about a fictional opera diva, and his 2003 nonfiction book QUEER STREET, about gay life in New York City after World War II. James McCourt was born in New York City and attended Manhattan College, NYU, the Yale School of Drama, and the Old Met. Among his works of fiction and nonfiction are MAWRDEW CZGOWCHWZ, WAYFARING AT WAVERLY IN SILVER LAKE, and QUEER STREET: THE RISE AND FALL OF AN AMERICAN CULTURE, 1947-1985. He lives in New York City.
- Wayne Koestenbaum