A fictional biography of Cary Grant: he's at the peak of a charmed career, and also on a turbulent journey to find the core of a self he hardly seems to know anymore. Introduced to the wonder drug LSD as part of his therapy at The Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills, he embarks on upward of one hundred psychedelic trips—at times harrowing journeys. And on the way, he rediscovers the long-ago boy who faced the world as Archie Leach, the earnest, gap-toothed stilt walker and tumbler he once was, long ago.
Chapters ping-pong across time from his vaudeville days to his childhood to the talkies to middle-age ennui, jumbling the narrative to evoke Grant’s search for a logical arc. It’s a clever way to structure a historical novel — and a more interesting way to write about LSD than making the language go all gluey and run-on. Delaney writes simply and beautifully about Grant ... Delaney is more interested in Grant’s lack of fulfillment than its consequences ... Delaney, who’s written five earlier acclaimed works of fiction, is going after something subtler. He’s not satirizing Grant or Hollywood so much as crafting a character who’s effectively character-less. If Delaney clings overly much to his mask metaphors, he’s also sensitive to how those masks change, how hard they are to remove ... The Acrobat, cannily, represents the dark side of the 'stars, they’re just like us!' spreads in gossip rags.
The novel reads like a short story collection ... The broad strokes of Grant’s life, his upbringing, his career, and his relationships are familiar. Using these as touch points, the book settles into a balance of action and introspection, imagining the private events and conversations that led to public articles and falling outs. The intermingling of fiction with truth captures the essence of Grant as a Hollywood leading man, but also as just a man, with foibles, hopes, and fears ... The Acrobat is an artistic biographical novel about one of the greatest actors of all time.
A splendid fictional biography of Cary Grant ... Delaney vividly captures the intoxicating and toxic fumes of Hollywood...and presents an alluring amalgam of fact and fiction. Breezy and entertaining, Delaney’s portrait perfectly befits the glamour and fakery of his subject.