Fans of Brown's very best work (Six of One) will find the pickings very slim here, because--though, to her credit, Brown...

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SUDDEN DEATH

Fans of Brown's very best work (Six of One) will find the pickings very slim here, because--though, to her credit, Brown jumbles names and identities with a certain tact--this novel is à clef all the way: women's pro tennis, lesbianism, financial exploitation, infidelity. Carmen Semana is a brilliant young tennis star from Argentina; her lover, Harriet Rawls (a professor of religion at Cazenovia College), shares a house with her in upstate N.Y. And Carmen has a family problem: her brother Miguel, a shark who's open to all manner of shady deals behind Carmen's back--utilizing her name (even, once, her forged signature). But the more serious trouble here comes from rival pro Susan Reilly, who, ranked not far below Carmen in the standings, is bitterly desirous of denying Carmen a try at the Grand Slam. Why? Because Carmen doesn't surfer Susan's sexual hypocrisy. (Susan's married--but has had scores of women lovers.) Thus, in order to defeat Carmen, Susan leaks a lurid story about Carmen and Harriet's unhidden but also unflaunted love: the media latches on; Harriet the innocent is all but destroyed; Carmen's attention to her game is shredded. And Brown pads out this thin story with cutesy dialogue and lots of slack descriptive writing on the game itself (""The tic breaker was electrifying. There wasn't a sloppy point in it. Each woman called upon herself to perform the heroic and did so""). Plus--preachy stuff fit only for a pretentious columnist: ""Modern professional sports rewards players for functions instead of character. Responsibility is narrowly defined as doing a job better than anyone else. Emotional, social, or political responsibility is not even imagined. The fault lies not with sport. Sport is only a symbol of the fragmentation of life, a fragmentation begun with the industrial revolution, . . ."" etc., etc. Never really crass, then, but limp and messy: sometimes earnest, sometimes flip, always slow and pat--and likely to hold the attention of only those readers who are both aware of Brown's real-life tennis connections. . . and eager to interpret this as thinly disguised insider-dirt.

Pub Date: May 1, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983