Justine is slim and Dorothy obese. As their relationship develops they reveal what lies beneath the surface of their normal suburban childhoods: cruel power games, painful tension between intimacy and isolation, denial and fulfillment, and the betrayal of love and innocence.
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This impressive but uneven novel by the author of the praised short fiction collection Bad Behavior makes promises it does not keep. Two women, totally unalike in background, personality and social class, are brought together by a shared fascination with the philosophical movement founded by the late Anna Granite (read Ayn Rand). Justine is a chic journalist who wants to write an article about the followers of Granite's philosophy, Definitism. Dorothy is an obese, nocturnal word processor who answers Justine's advertisement in Manhattan Thing and offers to be interviewed about her involvement with the Definitists. As the two women come to know each other, their dismal life experiences gradually emerge, and their present circumstances are seen as a repetition of past connections and betrayals. This is a hard, edgy book, and Gaitskill's energy and flashy intelligence notwithstanding, the perhaps deliberate lack of polish ultimately detracts. The novel's raw, unsparing view is like that of certain contemporary paintings, and there are extraordinary moments of deeply examined female sexuality where Gaitskill is at her most original. But an underdeveloped and fragmented style has not served her well with the narrative and structural demands here. Thus this distinctive novel falls short of its potential. Major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
It is a credit to Ms. Gaitskill's prose, with its fine storyteller's pace and brilliant metaphors, that we are drawn along, loath to abandon this grim story. -- The New York Times Book Review, Ginger Danto
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