FALLING OUT by Charles Cohen


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First-novelist Cohen spreads a number of serviceable, awfully familiar urban-comedy routines--Jewish mothers, the ad biz, N.Y. vs. California, women's lib, etc.--around the supposed rebirth of a largely unappealing narrator-hero. This is 36-year-old Sam Levy, creative director of an ad agency (cat food a speciality). And he's also the ten-year husband of banker Fran, who--thanks to the egging-on of her best friend, foul therapist Bea Moran--has become feministically disenchanted with Sam despite his non-chauvinist cooking and supportiveness. So, while Fran is away on a business trip, Sam remembers their courtship and wedding (a fairly funny Jewish/WASP culture-clash scene); he has dinner with his nemesis Bea (after they trade feminist/skeptic insults, he pushes a plate of Italian food onto her lap); and he shacks up with blue-eyed TV-commercial ""stylist"" Matty. Thus, when Fran returns, they split up after mutual you-are-uncaring accusations; and Sam then spends the rest of the book reaching an understanding with Matty--which involves trips to Los Angeles, attempted flings with other women, and finally wrapping things up with Fran (she dumps Bea but now only likes Sam). Plus, throughout: job anxieties and that inevitable Jewish mother, ""a prime candidate for a starring role in The Menninger Clinic Follies""--whom Sam eventually gets up the guts to tell off. All of this is competently handled, but none of it is either exuberant or original; and the dialogue (especially with homosexual colleague Richie) often edges over from cute to cutesy. Most crucially, however, is the problem with Sam himself: he simply isn't very likable, and his awakening here--apparently one that allows him to finally believe in his own wonderfulness--seems unjustified. Mild, uneven Upper-East-Side amusement, then, with no solid groundings.

Pub Date: May 11th, 1981
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row