Ending its moratorium on new fiction, Dalkey seems to have made this selection on the basis of obligations from exhausted literary lore rather than anything of a new or living interest.
The narrator is a Montreal writer (like author Scott) who is spending a certain time in Paris, living in a studio apartment under the eye of a typically critical and snoopy concierge. Her friends are “Z,” “B,” “S,” “C,” “P,” and “H,” some male, some female, though it’s not easy to find out who’s which, nor is any of them given shading or depth enough to be memorable or seem more than a cipher. The narrator is ever-busy: lounging on her studio couch not writing (and feeling guilt); observing the changing window display in the men’s store across the way; sight-seeing (she’s encyclopedically knowledgeable about historic and literary Paris); stopping in cafés; or going to literary and movie-celebrity parties. But she’s no fun whatsoever to spend time with on the page, since she comes no more to life than do her alphabetical friends. That she’s lesbian becomes clear, but much clearer is that she’s got some weird idea about gerunds, seemingly derived from an idea Gertrude Stein had about predicates. Or whatever. In any case, this brings our narrator, over and over, to write things of this sort: “Like she doing. When visiting chez nous. Reinforcing sense I not at all in Paris I expecting.” Or to say things like “Feeling like weeks since I sleeping.” She can say careful, lovely, poetic things like “On the boulevard strip the ragged maples blow.” But much, much, much more often her remarks are such as “Suddenly I feeling in Paris I expecting.” She’s having, it seems, trouble selling her “Bk of Md’d Wm’n.” One very elegant publisher, over tea, suggests that the trouble has to do with the “American in charge of translation” and “Thinking narrative wanting.” But could it—gasp!—possibly be?
Learned, pretentious, politically correct, navel-gazing, tedious, wholly uninteresting fiction.