NOTHING BUT THE BEST by Diane Balson

NOTHING BUT THE BEST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Balson's blending of cartoon-y backgrounds with a quietly human center worked rather nicely in a Seventies liberation-fest called Yo-Yo (1976). But this second novel, a breezily hysterical Manhattan tale of incest and decadence, is as vague about period--apparently the early Sixties--as it is about satiric stance. Narrator Sarah, just arrived home from her latest attempt at independence, is lifesized and moderately appealing (for a while anyway), but Balson surrounds her with grotesques: piggy, handsome, loud, possessive, rich Daddy (Sarah calls him ""Adam"") is right out of Goodbye, Columbus, except perhaps for the presence of his live-in Swiss baby-doll mistress Helga; mother is an unfeeling Auntie Mame, complete with a show-biz/hairdressing flattery coterie; and senile Grandma is upstairs singing along with Carmen over the townhouse intercom. Sarah, naturally, is oppressed by mother's uncaring and father's clinging, resentful of all the flitty hangers-on, and madly jealous of Helga. So she has sort of a breakdown when mother's hairdresser butchers her nice long hair, a breakdown soothed by a trip to Nassau with father Adam. ""He had rescued me, my father, saved me from madness,"" but ""I would find a way to punish him for that rescue."" Incest as punishment? Well, it certainly turns out that way: after Sarah and Adam become lovers in Nassau, Sarah finally leaves home, goes to work (and bed) with Adam's chief competitor, and jealous, worn-out Adam (""I don't want to live"") succumbs to a brain tumor. As a metaphorical working out of a primal father-daughter, hate-love trauma--weird and rather crude. As something approaching real storytelling--jazzily tailored but all holes and seams.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich