LOONGLOW by Helen Eisenbach


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Despite its literary pretensions, this frivolous first novel testifies, inadvertently, to the trivial concerns of the young--their mindless search for happiness, their immature fear of conventionality, and their frightening moral relativism. Though Eisenbach continually reminds us of her characters' dazzling wit and brilliant insights, they seem instead ripe for parody and satire. They certainly conform to enough stereotypes. There's Clayton Lee, the filthy rich, wonderfully handsome Southerner, who's somewhat overwhelmed by ""the Futility of Love in the Big City."" This charming blond boy from Tennessee, with his tendency to overindulge in bourbon, wiles away the time working on his unpublishable tome, Flirting with Greatness, a study of idealizations of love inspired by the scene he witnesses in a bar: an absolutely perfect woman unmercifully dumping her lover. To Clay's surprise, the latter turns out to be a woman. The stunning beauty, whom he arranges to meet, is one hot-blooded Italian named Mia D'Allesandro, known to her friends as ""the most lethal woman this side of Gomorrah""; she also happens to be ""a highly successful stock trader on Wall Street"" and not at all interested in men. Two years after this initial obsession, Clay, while schlepping his book from editor to editor, runs into the object of Mia's kiss-off: Louisa ""Louey"" Mercer, an editor at Regent Books, who had been Mia's lover since they were teen-agers. Still mooning for cruel Mia, Louey just wants ""to be blissfully happy,"" and for a time--while working with Clay on his novel, which she so playfully titles Bright Lights, Hot Pussy--she manages to find happiness with the slightly dissolute Southern gentleman. This unusual passion runs counter to Louey's high principles (""How could he know what it was like to be a woman, Jewish, gay?. . .The prospect of telling her friends she was sleeping with a man--a white man--held so little appeal. . .""), but, hey, New York City is a place where ""people let each other be."" There's plenty of intentional campiness throughout this free-to-be-you-and-me farce, and much that's not meant to be (in Clay's arms, Louey thinks: ""It was different from Mia--different from women altogether""). From its fervid prose to its fulsome acknowledgments (""I have the most wonderful friends. . .""), Eisenbach's bathetic novel could easily become a commercial success, and thereby confirm the cynical view of publishing expressed throughout it.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux