IN BETWEEN THE SHEETS
Seven stories by the gifted author of The Cement Garden (1978), who keeps his deadpan cool while twisting male-female relations into lean, macabre parables--a technique that is always intriguing but only occasionally absorbing. The gimmickiest tales here are also the neatest: "Reflections of a Kept Ape" not only reverses old male and female roles--the narrator is a stay-at-home, cast-off male whining and mooning for his busy love's attention--but hilariously makes the lovesick parody-lover a gibbering ape who happens to write immaculate, rather baroque prose; and "Dead as They Come" takes the woman-as-sex-object (and woman as orgasm-seeker) to its natural ad absurdum--not the first story about a man in love with a mannequin, but surely both the funniest and ugliest. Less surreal are a creepy but predictable tale of a half-baked Casanova whose women take the usual revenge ("We'll leave you a pretty little stump to remember us by")--and the title story, the most human of all: a divorced father wrestles with the closeness between paternal and erotic love for his pubescent, visiting daughter. With three other fragmentary pieces that don't achieve much impact, this slim collection is hardly McEwan at his best (he remains a writer of tremendous style who seems limited by his obsessions), but at the very least it reinforces his position as the Roald DaM for the sexually-eruptive 1970s.