The title, unfortunately, is not ironic: in a dismaying shift from the shrewd observation of her Adjacent Lives debut,...



The title, unfortunately, is not ironic: in a dismaying shift from the shrewd observation of her Adjacent Lives debut, Schwamm seems to be attempting something rapturous, almost Dostoevskyan here--but merely winds up, amid a confusion of tones and styles, with Scott Spencer manquÉ. Nora Ingarden, rich and beautiful at 40 (just how beautiful we're told incessantly), is the wife of tax-lawyer Ned, the mother of two college-age kids--more or less content with her Fifth Avenue/charity-event life. But then, during her 40th birthday-party at Windows on the World, Nora meets Lautner: shabbily dressed, rude--yet epically truthful, god-like, devil-like, all-knowing, brilliant beyond words, and ""beautiful"" too, of course. So it's love at first sight--as Nora becomes obsessed with Lautner: ""I hesitate to speak of this-who speaks willingly of the darker things that belong to love?--but she felt a sort of madness growing on her."" She re-evaluates her shallow existence, becomes increasingly angry at insensitive, stingy, ruthless Ned--insulting, even biting, his unpleasant business associates. She has intense dialogues with guru-like Lautner. (""I said earlier that I could give you the gift of openness of will--you could talk now if you believed I was honestly real. Well, are you interested?"") After their first super-sex session, he says: ""Now that you've discovered that pleasure has a validity all its own, how are you going to live any other way?"" And though there are some mixed feelings along the way, Nora eventually breaks from nasty/weepy Ned, tells her children, and passes enough of Lautner's psychic stress-tests (""'You're learning,' he said"") to become ""a courtesan to the truth,"" the mate of this ""man with a vision and the courage of a kamikaze."" Most readers, however, are likely to find the aptly (intentionally?) named Lautner only a pompous, narcissistic lout--and Schwamm (unlike Spencer in Endless Love) has no real distance from Nora's obsession, despite all the I/she fussing in the often-murky, verbose narration. So, though a few scenes flare with the social-observation talents of Adjacent Lives, this is breathy, static fiction--as a self-involved heroine moves, with lots of introspection but little insight, from one dominating monster-man to another.

Pub Date: June 10, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983