JO STERN by David R. Slavitt


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Yecch. What else can you say about a novel that attempts to turn the whiplash business dealings and sad, sordid private life of Jacqueline Susann into some sort of heroic, sentimental saga--further curdled by the author's patronizing, self-indulgent meandering? That, sad to say, is all that's going on here, as a writer named Henry (Slavitt writes Susann-y books like The Voyeur under the name of Henry Sutton) is asked by publisher Gerry Berger (reverse the initials and get Bernard Geis) to write a book about Jo Stern--who started as an actress; wrote bestsellers; had a loud unfaithful husband-manager, a brain-damaged daughter, a mastectomy; and died of cancer. Narrator Henry muses, researches, and reconstructs Jo's career, alternately critiquing and defending her novels (""I am forced to admit, then, that in some ways she was better than I am""), relishing her manipulations and humiliations of greasy Geis, er, Berger, and wandering off into chitchat about publishing and talk-shows (""You think I'm being excessive? You think I'm making too much of a thing about this? Listen! I was on the David Frost show. . .""). This is not so much a roman à clef as a roman à cleft-palate, of marginal interest only to diehard Susann fans and publishing-world yentas-and one must turn to Slavitt's own choice prose to find adequate words to sum up: ""as negligible as a squirrel's fart.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row