THE SECRET DEFECTOR by Clancy Sigal
Kirkus Star

THE SECRET DEFECTOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The return of the great social iconoclast, his fourth novel in a quarter of a century (Weekend in Dinlock, Going Away, Zone of the Interior), with the last bow of many earlier characters in his books. Like John Reed, Sigal is a renowned American Red, a kind of amusingly serious self-made writer-outcast-Don Juan with a two-fisted history of life among the clown-and-out. Here, he tells about his earliest clays as an apprentice writer lusting to break loose with his first book but immured in writer's block. The problem: as Gus Black, he's living with Rose O'Malley (read Doris Lessing), a novelist from South Africa now in London, nine years his senior, who is writing Loose Leaves from a Random Life (read The Golden Notebook, in which Sigal is Saul Green) with daily installments about their love affair and Rose's cannibalizing Gus's notes about that affair. Rose is a great cook (whom Gus often flops onto the kitchen floor for sex) but also a humorless Socialist with a genius for analyzing the Oedipal roots of every move Gus makes. After her book comes out, Gus complains that ""She didn't even get my orgasms right."" At last they part and Gus goes to work for British Vogue as the resident Red, and as a wandering BBC-TV interviewer digging into the lower classes. He's sold out? For the moment. Real people, including Colin MacInnes and E.M. Forster, pop up for rich portraits, and in fact nearly the whole British writing Establishment gets tarred and feathered by Gus, whose idols are Hemingway and Mailer. Gus also goes in for LSD and treatment for ""schizophrenia"" with the messianic Marxist shrink Willie Last (from Zone of the Interior). Back in the States, he's an overpaid writer-in-residence at a California college but returns to England to save his Red soul. Sigal digs hard into union life and poverty in both countries, and his vigorous panning brings up many fine gold flakes among the gravel.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins