Imagine The Ambassadors reduced to the emotional dimensions of one of those breathless ads for Cosmopolitan magazine--and...

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A DIFFERENCE OF DESIGN

Imagine The Ambassadors reduced to the emotional dimensions of one of those breathless ads for Cosmopolitan magazine--and you'll have a rough idea of this new effete effusion from the author of An Armful of Warm Girl and A Presence with Secrets. Spackman takes the basic plot of the James novel, updates it, and archly gives the characters almost the same names: Chad Newsome is now Chad Newman, Lambert Strether is Lewis Lambert Sather, Maria Gostrey is Maria Godfrey, etc. Thus, in the novella's opening section, after Sather has come to France to bring Chad home from over-worldly entanglements, Chad's Countess/mistress delivers a monologue about her love-at-first-sight reaction to Sather (50-ish, Wall-Street-elegant), her desire to see him again, her un-customary role of yearner rather than yearn-ee: ""I who had been so politely astonished, so often, at what other women do! . . . And what had been the use in saying I must not decide, I must not look at this man, when oh Heaven help me just saying it was deciding! Ah mais regarde-moi--regarde comme je fats."" Then the narrative switches to Sather himself, waiting for Chad to return to Paris from the country, in the midst of a new affair with Maria Godfrey, his hired escort/guide to the city: each of them recalls the flirtation leading up to) their consummation; Maria confides the courtship story of her feckless ex-husband (""And how could any man think being unassuming was a way to put me in a swoon about him--well, one despairs!""); there's lots of pillow talk about love, sex, jealousy (""I mean have I lost my head over you like a schoolgirl or do you just so totally please me? Or is that losing one's head!""). And then the narration returns to the Countess, who gets her desired rendezvous with Sather--and is thrilled when he takes the romantic lead: ""Ah Dieu du Ciel I was saved, I was safe, he was as stricken as I, I could do as I pleased with him, there were not even biensÉances, I was free! . . ."" Verbose fluff, as before, with the two contrasting women-in-love equally shallow (misogyny lurks beneath Spackman's apparent Casanova complex)--but some readers may again be attracted by the worldly affectations and surface erudition.

Pub Date: May 26, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983