by Ellen Gilchrist ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 9, 1988
A disappointingly histrionic second novel from Gilchrist (Victory, Over Japan, 1984; Falling Through Space, 1987) chronicling the further adventures and the demise of Anna Hand, first introduced in Drunk With Love (1986). Anna is a writer and sexual fantasist who follows her orgasms from lover to lover, wondering now and again about Einstein's theories or the genetic code, until a sense of malaise both physical and spiritual drives her home to Charlotte, North Carolina: i.e., the New South. Unable to have children herself, she tries to come to terms with her family, if not her impulses, so that love is grounded and not free-flying. In the book's most engaging section, Anna wages a successful campaign to convince her brother Daniel to acknowledge Olivia, his half-Indian daughter from a short-lived first marriage, and to make her a part of the family. Because Anna, a familiar Gilchrist concoction, is addicted to gracious living and pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure, she chooses not to live when she contracts breast cancer. She walks into the ocean, ending her life but not, alas, the book, which might have worked as a novella. Instead, we must suffer the spectacle of Anna's relatives and admirers--they are legion--coming together to drink, smoke, copulate, and talk about her. In the last section, Helen, Anna's sister and literary executor, reads Anna's unfinished manuscripts and gets it on with yet another of her sister's former lovers. Quoting Sappho (the novel's presiding spirit), Helen decides the human race would not have made it this far if ""someone wasn't having fun at least part of the time."" Which is an apt epitaph for the book: it's fun part of the time, for Anna is a wonderfully loose cannon on the deck, full of quirky southern witchery and a libido that won't quit, but she too easily overshadows thin secondary characters. Gilchrist's talent is dazzling but limited: as a short-story writer and essayist, she is a delight, both compassionate and snide, cosmic and lascivious, but The Anna Papers is patchy.
Pub Date: Oct. 9, 1988
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988
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