INCIDENTAL MUSIC: Stories by Francoise Sagan


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Silken Eyes (1977) offered the full range of Sagan's tart, bittersweet, sigh-ful storytelling; this less generous new collection features her least serious, most ironic and playful side--more Maupassant (or even O. Henry) than Colette. Adultery, as usual, is a major concern. In ""The Cat and the Casino,"" a working-class Nice woman discovers her husband's infidelity, impetuously gambles the mortgage-money at the local casino, and wins a bundle--only to then find herself with a troubling ""bagful of alternatives"" that defuses her anger. In ""Aftermath of a Duel,"" a young Austrian officer (and secret coward) avoids an 1880s duel with a cuckolded husband by marrying the cuckold's middle-aged sister--only to find himself a cuckold, again having to hide his cowardice. ""The Exchange"" is a variation on the old ribald chestnut about the thief and the lady-of-the-house. And other anecdote-like stories feature sentimental last-minute pairings, with Love conquering money or pride: a Toscalike Naples beauty dooms a handsome peasant to the firing squad, then does a switcheroo; an aristocratic Baden-Baden fortunehunter opts for a real woman instead of an heiress; a middle-aged Detroit golfer gives up his youth-obsession (and his kiss-and-tell approach) for a mature charmer. True, some of the situations here--a couple experiencing tension, a woman stood up by a lover, a divorced woman seeing her ex--are too commonplace to elicit more than a shrug. Occasionally, as in a 1940 tale about a trio of shallow Parisians stranded in the countryside, Sagan over-states her (never very subtle) points. And there are apparent losses in translation--especially in ""Third Person Singular,"" a grammatical comedy about a husband realizing the extent of his new wife's snobbishness. But, if far from ambitious or original, these are crisply, neatly delivered packets of wry and rue--with some much-needed variety supplied by the array of time-periods and locales.

Pub Date: March 12th, 1984
Publisher: Dutton