Anorexia nervosa was recently novelized clearly and quietly, if without much imaginative flair, in Steven Levenkron's The...

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THE EMPTY FACE

Anorexia nervosa was recently novelized clearly and quietly, if without much imaginative flair, in Steven Levenkron's The Best Little Girl in the World (p. 767). Here that self-starvation mental disease is just one confused aspect of craziness in the diary of German-born Londoner Elaine Kampe, who hates sex and is addicted to laxative pills in huge quantities. Nice Dr. Blair persuades 77-pound Elaine to enter Greenwood, a voluntary asylum where two weeks of semi-narcosis are needed to keep Elaine from her triple obsession: pills, alcohol, and her masochistic friend Liz's razor-blades. Though this procedure apparently saves Elaine from starvation and gets her in shape for life on the outside, it convinces her that Greenwood is ""a place with a vicious dehumanizing processing apparatus at its center."" She disengages herself from her possessive mother, gets a job in publishing, and resumes her life with her loyal boyfriend James (something of a freaky martyr), but soon the laxative pills are back, along with other drugs; and then Elaine jumps out the window. She survives and suddenly finds salvation--by meeting wonderful Emma and by realizing that psychiatrists are madmen and that husbands are sexual oppressors. ""I wasn't going to be lulled into submission again. I had finished with the past."" Does Havekamp really want us to believe that Elaine's vast problems--we get glimpses of her skewed childhood--can be remedied by feminist/radical dogma? The point of view here is murky, like just about everything else in this intermittently harrowing but often artily pretentious lament; and that murkiness keeps this first novel from being either clinically informative or dramatically coherent.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Richard Marek--dist. by Putnam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1978