A GIRL OF FORTY by Herbert Gold


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A tale of midlife sexuality and teen-age suicide that labors mightily in the grade-B shallows, though sprinkled with Gold's usual touches of writerly grace. At 43, unmarried journalist Frank Curtis falls head over heels for Suki Read, divorced mother of a young son Peter, and many-lovered sex-object extraordinaire (""Flashing narrow white thigh beneath slit folds of slithering cloth, flashing small pink and white breasts in a silken blouse with an extra button undone, showing tips of teeny-tiny white teeth as her mouth came open with laughter, Suki was a small bright package of delights""). In Suki's world of revolving-door lovers, perfectly successful parties (""Suki was running to and fro on her little cheerleader's thighs""), and California food and drink, Frank takes his turn in bed and then waits his turn, but gets closer than most to the ""real"" Suki, partly by getting closer than most to her son Peter. Big trouble arises, though, when Peter matures, rebels, calls his mother a whore, and finally runs away from home with her Visa card, but not before making some videotapes of the action in her bedroom, with which he undertakes a rather far-fetched program of blackmail against his would-be father-substitute Frank Curtis. Followed by Curtis to his seedy lair in the tenderloin district, Peter ends it all by putting a knife through his eyeball. After such (however gratuitous) horror, what remains? Well, natch, the promise of wedding bells for Frank and Suki (says Frank, in his hormone-blinded way, ""She would go on being Suki as best she could""). Satire of California types in the Evelyn Waugh vein may amuse some (there's a flight attendant therapist, a screenwriter, a diet faddist who claims to live on air), but elevating the hot little teeny-tiny-toothed Suki to the levels of passion and grief (""I'd rather die than anything happened to him"") not only fails but merely surpasses the risible. Psychological false notes from start to end.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Donald Fine