TORCH SONG by Anne Roiphe
Kirkus Star


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After the positive pleasures of Anne Roiphe's earlier books, Torch Song is a rather negative commitment even if you are committed to follow the submissive and sexually mortifying love of Marjorie Weiss--assimilated Park Avenue Jewish--for Jim Morrison, a homosexual with queer queer habits. They both frequent the White Horse in the mid-Fifties, when it was the best known of New York's liberated hangouts; Marjorie is plump in her ""people sweater"" from Barnard, Jim's a languid writer-to-be but an articulate name-dropper. Hardship cases like these are difficult to explain--so is Marjorie's dedication to Jim since she thinks of herself as midway between Bernadette and Florence Nightingale (actually she's his mother/grandmother combined). She applies poultices to his ego and attempts to redirect his sexual inclinations. After she swipes her canasta-playing, scotch-sipping mother's jewelry, she goes to Europe with Jim; later she persuades her mother to subsidize their marriage, which remains virgin-white. Jim, her ""Dracula-Hyde,"" writes by day and pays prostitutes at night to go through outrÉ routines. But he does become successful, surprising everyone with his After Ludwig which is actually after Thomas Mann. Finally they return to New York where one book, one psychiatrist, one baby (an almost miraculous conception), three wives, and one husband later, the whole messy relationship is written down and off. Marjorie at one point calls her love for Jim an ""infection"" and Anne Roiphe, a cleverer writer than most, makes it seem as unpleasant and unavoidable as that. Also as hard to expunge except via a book--one whose assets are almost the same as its liabilities. It will be read for its sharp scene-setting, desperate intimacy, and all too self-fulfilling martyrdom.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux