FACE-TIME by Erik Tarloff
Kirkus Star

FACE-TIME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Today's intentional blurring of the line between fact and fiction continues with sometime speechwriter Tarloff's first novel, which asks the burning question: What if ""Monica Lewinsky"" had a live-in boyfriend who got wind of her affair and had hurt feelings and moral outrage of his own? In this version, that boyfriend, Ben Krause, is a speechwriter drawn to Senator Charles Sheffield's presidential campaign not so much by Sheffield's practiced charm as by his survival among the shoals of other piranha. When Ben's girlfriend, Gretchen Bums, lands a job in the new President's social office, the starry-eyed couple buy a condo off Dupont Circle and settle down to the good life. Even though that life includes a growing number of invitations to increasingly exalted and intimate White House functions, and a widening gulf between the two caused by Gretchen's unexplained absences, it takes Ben quite a while to catch on to the First Affair that his mate's been conducting with every solicitous effort to spare his feelings--except, of course, by breaking off the relationship after Ben demands it. Tarloff's signal achievement is his conviction in rendering Gretchen's and Ben's continued infatuation with the man who's wrecking their lives-an attraction that goes far beyond their reluctance to offend the President. Both of them live for face-to-face time with the magnetic scoundrel who compares himself to Churchill in a climactic scene that, like so much else here, seems to have been written with both eyes on Primary Colors. The novel's deeper, horrific fascination, though, lies in its nonfictional innuendos and in the sort of journalistic/historical associations hammered home by Ben's extended citations of Suetonius, Desmond Morris, Jane Goodall, and Kirk Douglas's autobiography. Unremarkable as fiction, but riveting for potential gossips less likely to be caught up in the soapy predicament of Gretchen and Ben than to wonder about the author's relationship with his own spouse, former Clinton economic advisor Laura D'Andrea Tyson.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Crown