THE SYMBOL by Alvah Bessie


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In spite of the amplified disclaimer: ""Note: This story is a fiction. Neither its characters nor the situations in which they are involved are intended to represent any persons now living or dead (or both)"", there will be no question whom The Symbol represents. And it is primarily this factor, the implicit identification, and yes, the explicit sex, which ensures that it will be read with a fascinated avidity. Indeed, with or without the stammer, it is M-M-monogrammed throughout from the opening scene when Wanda Emmaline Kelly etc. attempts to verbalize in her limited vocabulary to Dr. Rubenstein, a laconic figure staring, staring at a blank page on his clipboard. Wanda, orphaned at two, was placed in foster homes, raped by a roomer at nine, married at sixteen to a Navy boy, and towards the end of the war decided to promote her natural endowment as a sex goddess. Then there are the men--the marriages--Buck, the football player, gauche and faithful and loving; Calvin the ""high powered intellectual"" painter from New York where she spends some time with him and The Method and in a mental hospital; and always the paradoxes of the girl who could create an image but never find an identity, who could project sex and never reciprocate it, all the way through the long scenes from Oh Daddy to Daddy O, liquor, drugs, the couch which failed her as much as the bed, until the long out.... Bessie's book certainly never manages to capture that duende-star quality, but it does have the Harlow hook down to some of its more tasteless moments. As such The Symbol seems like as axiomatic commercial reality which will probably perform from the top of the list.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1966
Publisher: Random House