It is March 1979--the second convulsive month of Iran's unfinished revolution. Millett, long active in efforts to expose...



It is March 1979--the second convulsive month of Iran's unfinished revolution. Millett, long active in efforts to expose SAVAK terrorism (and discredit the Shah), has been invited to speak at a rally in Tehran on International Women's Day, March 8. And so we have, conjoined, the latest installment of Millett's self-engorging life-story (with frequent references to happenings in Sita et al.) and a front-line view of the revolution's last gasp--the rising of the women--by one anathema, ipso facto, to the new regime: an American feminist and lesbian. What's annoying and gratifying about the book does not divide so neatly, however. The moments that reverberate are neither biographical nor historical but might, rather, be scenes from a novel: Millett and photographer-lover Sophie Keir, arriving at the Tehran airport--to be confronted by ""a sea of chadori, the long terrible veil,"" and ""guns everywhere. . . often pointed at you""--and the two of them waiting conspicuously, frighteningly ""unclaimed"" (the first of many broken connections); Millett and Keir and cohorts taking refuge in the International Hotel: ""After seven hours of snow and clamor and fracas--it's both funny and necessary that female revolutionaries betook themselves of pastry, tea, chocolate, antithetical comforts."" There is also, here, the Millett of Sexual Politics--musing on the Iranian feminist woman's lack of a car, a place of her own, the least mobility or autonomy. And developing events have their own hard-core historical weight--the promised chance to speak at a CP rally that doesn't materialize, the scheduled march that almost doesn't take place, the press conference at which Millett is savagely baited. She makes a good case, then, for ""meddling"" (""the very stuff of human-rights work""); but on another score the accusations still ring true--what she has seen and (with Keir) unceasingly photographed and taped, is all that she knows. The whole thing is closed in--not only by Millett's feminist/counterculturist proselytizing and the in situ preoccupation with getting a drink, a good meal, a shower or bath, but by total unawareness of the scope of the Iranian women's movement during those crucial days. Then, fatally, Millett is informed that she's to be expelled--and the last 80 or so pages are nothing, relentlessly, but self (even as she is decrying ""the egotism, the megalomania this situation brings with it. Reporters after us constantly . . . . We are the center of interest. . .""). A document of genuine interest, in sum, but a very off-and-on book.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981