BURNING QUESTIONS by Alix Kates Shulman
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BURNING QUESTIONS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It's not easy to know just how Alix Kates Shulman (Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen) feels about Zane Indi-Anna, whose autobiography (My Life as a Rebel, supposedly published by the feminist ""New Space Press"") is the whole of this shiny, shifty book. When Zane describes her flight from the vacuum conformity of Midwest suburbia to late-Fifties Beatnik-land (one week away and she's in black tights, ""smoking pot in Greenwich Village. . . with the head of a poet in my lap!""), the tone is a sprightly blend of nostalgia and wry hindsight. When Zane laments her ""regression"" into middleclassdom on Washington Square (""decent"" lawyer husband, three kids, a lover) and her feverish attempt nonetheless to be part of Sixties activism (""I would make bread, donate blood, study Marx, take up yoga, impeach Johnson, read Marcuse, sew for peace. . .""), there's enough stylish self-awareness to keep us tuned in. But throughout these early phases Zane exhibits a shallowness, a childish strain, a straightfaced yearning to ""insinuate myself into the passions and actions of my time."" This naive self-dramatization is nicely human. But it becomes something of a major problem when Zane supposedly Finds the Answer: ""The personal is political: a stunning new thought""--the credo of Zane's transformation via the radical-feminist Third Street Circle, lesbianism (""I let myself wallow in equality""), dialectics, and activism (""Golda was driving the getaway car. I had brought the spray paint""). Are we meant to share Zane's exhilarating climb in the broadening Women's Movement, her discovery of a ""dialectical approach"" to life that makes her very, very happy? Or is the Movement just one more outlet for Zane's romantic-rebel shtick--a pipe-dream that Shulman is gently satirizing? Whichever or both, Zane's metamorphosis is much less effective than it should be, and the overview of her rebellious frustrations is too from-the-outside and once-over-lightly to match the raw pull of a cruder work like The Women's Room (""I have no intention of telling you the now-familiar sad housewife tale""). But this book will be read--for the energetic sparkle of Shulman's prose, for the semi-sweet evocation of Big Moments in Activism, and for the inside-the-Movement history and topics-fordiscussion, up to date and desperately timely.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1978
Publisher: Knopf