If a patient is late to a session I do not take it lightly . . . I throw myself on the floor, scream and cry out, yes, even...

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BAD GUY

If a patient is late to a session I do not take it lightly . . . I throw myself on the floor, scream and cry out, yes, even pull at my hair (hoping it will not come out) in a ritual to show that I CARE."" No, narrator/therapist Mathilda Brody--despite her ultra-Freudian interpretations--isn't exactly Freudian in her doctor/patient demeanor. And this short, often violently funny novel chronicles Mathilda's highly unconventional treatment of Jesus Allendez: baby-faced teenage rapist/murderer. True, some of the comedy here recalls other psychiatry send-ups--particularly Christopher Durang's play Beyond Therapy. (Mathilda is fixated on Mickey Mouse: ""I still admire Mickey for his loyalty to a number of creatures. . . ."") But Drexler maintains a distinctive edginess throughout--with Mathilda's unpredictable shifts from shrewd analysis to wack-o techniques to dotty compassion. She interrogates Jesus about his robbery/killing of elderly neighbor Mrs. Agatha Kent (a flaky, long-ago modern-dance pioneer). She tries to shake him from his TV-conditioned, blasÉ attitude by cutting her own thumb with an X-Acto knife: ""This self-inflicted stigma was intended as a goad. . . ."" She chats with Jesus' mother, learns about the boy's bedwetting past, then tries to trigger his memories by ""placing pots of urine (hidden behind the couch, under the desk, on a bookshelf) around the room during the next Jesus Allendez session."" And eventually Mathilda arranges for Jesus to become a live-in patient at her apartment--while she also gives therapeutic attention to Mrs. Kent's angry, grieving, guilt-ridden daughter. (""I allowed Allison, large as she was, to sit on my lap in order to attenuate realistic, affectionate, nonsexual loving feelings. . . ."") The final outcome is no surprise: sexual tension between Jesus and Mathilda builds . . . ""to an authentic situation in which I was able to observe the psyche of the rapist and the victim as an insider."" But crazy/wise Mathilda--who offers assorted theories on sociopaths and sexuality along the way--is never just a cartoon of psychiatric posturing. And the bitterly comic Jesus case is breezily counterpointed with Allison's weirdness and with appearances by Mathilda's lover Harry, a bisexual with definite limitations on the hetero side. A slight, uneven, but jaggedly spontaneous think-farce overall: playwright Drexler's best fiction yet.

Pub Date: May 26, 1982

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982