ICE AND FIRE by Andrea Dworkin


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Feminist Dworkin's disappointing first novel: a tangled, underdeveloped, semiautobiographical sexual polemic that contains much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but little originality or clarity. The novel opens in fairly standard sensitive-coming-of-age fashion with the unnamed narrator describing her childhood in Camden, New Jersey--pages are devoted to a hide-and-seek game called Witch that the little boys used to scare the little girls. After a quick stop at a preppy New England college (where the narrator has an affair with a black man, and later an abortion), the scene then shifts to the extremely funky East Village during the 60's. The bisexual narrator is now heavily into drugs and living with a junkie female lover. Together, the two turn tricks for food and money and drugs; they also try to put together an avant-garde film. Finally unable to take this scene any longer, the narrator flees to northern Europe, where she cures a sensitive, artistic man of impotence--and he repays her by marrying and brutalizing her. All of the above has turned the narrator into a feminist--""not the fun kind,"" as she points out--and she returns to the States to write a book that is accepted by a publisher, who then also wants to sleep with her (using his own boyhood experience of homosexual rape as a kind of feminist bait). The narrator refuses, and the publisher publishes the book--but lets it wither on the vine. Written in a monotonous, self-parodying modernistic style (""We smoke, We drink. I am waiting for the woman from Nicaragua. I am hot. I take off my coat""). And it's Dworkin's self-indulgence to provide the reader with very little essential information about her main character--so that her cri de coeur remains more of an irritating generic wail. in all, some powerful material wasted in a self-conscious, overwritten first effort.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1987
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson