This debut by a prizewinning poet is a latecomer to bad-girl fiction, with all its candid sex-talk, and also furthers that...

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This debut by a prizewinning poet is a latecomer to bad-girl fiction, with all its candid sex-talk, and also furthers that most contemporary of tropes--the novel as extended whine. Masini adds a strikingly Catholic variation--her female narrator lost her virginity at 24!--but the complaints are all the same: unfaithful men, patriarchal families, predatory single women. The heroine is 35-year-old Teresa Spera, a New York City literature instructor, who suspects her art-gallery--owner husband of having an affair. Her slightly hysterical reaction is in keeping with her Brooklyn Italian background: She stalks her suspected rival and indulges in all kinds of strange behavior, from masturbating on the woman's bed (after breaking into her apartment) to spending a weekend at an austere Catholic monastery on Staten Island. Masini's exploration of a peculiarly Catholic pathology is right on. Terry digs spanking, light bondage, and being obedient; and her obsession with her husband's supposed lover is self-consciously operatic. After all, she swoons to diva Maria Callas and teaches Yeats. Meanwhile, Terry's husband is a bit of an anathema to this Brooklyn girl: He quotes Nietzsche and Foucault in defense of his obnoxious self-absorption, and he married only reluctantly. Besides, he seems to enjoy their kinky sex life and their trendy Soho lifestyle too much. Dutiful Terry finds little solace in her tight-lipped shrink, so she attends Al-anon meetings, posing as Yvonne, her husband's supposed mistress. She begins to steal and dress in Yvonne's clothes, then finally confronts Yvonne in Penn Station on Christmas Day. For all her self-righteous moaning, Terry also manages to sleep with one of her students during the course of the melodrama, thus losing any claim to the moral high-ground. Like most drama queens, Terry drags out her tale to insufferable lengths, and Masini doesn't censor her confused narrator. A potentially interesting short story overinflated.

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0393335461

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997