THE BODY IN FOUR PARTS by Janet Kauffman


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 Kauffman (Obscene Gestures for Women, etc.) has a mage's weakness for mysterious utterance, the goddess-persona, and a tendency to approach each of her slender, poetic but usually freighted works as though she's revising Ovid along feminist lines. Here, she plays with the conceit of multiple personalities to extend and simultaneously concentrate her mythologizing. Broken into the thematic elements of Water, Earth, Fire, and Air, Kauffman's ``story'' concerns a woman with an aquatic alter-ego named Dorothea (as well as a sub-alter-ego named Jonasine, adventuring femininely in the belly of the whale); two male counterpart-elements named Jean-Paul and Jack; and a fishmongeress best friend named Margaretta--with whom the narrator takes a car trip east. The trip makes up the only trail-able narrative element in this swoony mash of metamorphosis and stylistic self-indulgence, and hardly seems worth the effort: tepidly comic, recounted in secondhand flashback. Gender wisdom rather than narrative generosity seems the goal. Pretentious deluxe.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1993
ISBN: 1-55597-179-2
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993