Email this review


Steamy sex is the main ingredient of this confessional novel, Guy's fourth, as it was in his second work, The Man Who Loved Dirty Books (1983). The confessor is 40-year-old Charles Bradford, son of a top-flight Pittsburgh lawyer. (Charles invariably refers to his parents by their nicknames, ""The Senator"" and ""The Duchess."") The Duchess was a cold, distant mother, not the huggy-kissy type, and Charles has been compensating all his life, as a child by overeating and masturbating, as an adult by ravenous lovemaking (""the problem with you is, you're cunt struck,"" says his sister Helen. Helen is a lesbian, and a shrink). A rift opened between Charles and The Senator when the son (then married to the barely characterized Sara) chose novel-writing over lawyering, only to encounter writer's block; his subsequent rage (and physical demands) forced Sara to leave him. Now Charles is a successful freelance journalist, living in North Carolina, but back on a visit to Pittsburgh; The Senator has had a heart attack, brought on by anxiety over a pending lawsuit alleging conspiracy to defraud a client. On his first day back, Charles is seduced by Andrea, part-owner of a feminist bookstore, and as sexually voracious as himself (""I'm not interested in men. I'm interested in cocks""). What follows is a creakily conventional father-son reconciliation (even as Charles learns of The Senator's professional guilt) bizarrely counterpointed with Charles and Andrea's bouts (""we would fuck like crazy. . .fuck like animals""). When Charles hints at a relationship, Andrea panics and dumps him; the shock (following The Senator's death from a second heart-attack) stirs murderous anger in Charles, but he exercises self-restraint and leaves town. Don't look for the quirkiness of a Jong or the self-mockery of a Roth in this banal, humorless outpouring, which leaves shockingly unresolved the central issues of Charles's deep-seated rage. Guy has reversed the old pattern: he is candid below the waist, evasive above.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1990
Publisher: Dutton