A memoir from magazine writer Rose that tells us more about who she knows than who she is—and not much in either case.
The author comes out brandishing a knife and looking for trouble in her scant introduction: “People can come into my room if I invite them, but if they don’t like it they can get out fast, because it’s my room.” But as Rose begins her story, her prose goes lugubrious, and “get out fast” seems less like a challenge than a defense mechanism. The memoir maunders along in semi-torpor, detached and depressed as it describes a series of futility wars with hazy, sleep-in protectiveness, perhaps developed in response to her father’s cruel snideness. Rose does some modeling, takes acting classes, cobbles together some friends, all of whom in their 20s display a world-weariness that suggests the next move can only be into a bottle of Seconal. She drops names—always friends of friends or family, never hers—but Robert Hofstadter, John Reed, Tennessee Williams as portrayed here have no more resonance than photographs torn from magazines. When Rose scores a job at the New Yorker, she manages to perk up and wilt at the same time: for once she’s alert to her surroundings, but they give her the swoons, especially when filled with her gods: “Harold Brodkey, George Trow, and three whom I’ve come to think of as Europe, Personality Plus, and Mr. Normalcy . . . all of them were deeply engaged and seriously attracted”—wives notwithstanding. (Rose can’t be bothered with spouses either: “It can be a form of actual day-to-day torture to pretend not to notice the little dishes of poison married people offer you. . . .”) What follows is a compendious, enervating catalogue of snappy responses and witticisms between her and the men, in and out of office and restaurants and bed.
Not enough evidence of life here to warrant CPR.