ASKING FOR IT by Joan Taylor


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Rape and its aftermath--in a predictable, touching-all-feminist-bases scenario that's sometimes enlivened by the personality and particulars of the narrator-heroine. She's Kate Bianchi, a Manhattan photographer who has come, with toddler daughter Jen, for a ""rest"" on little Nauset Island off Maine (site of her childhood summer camp); she has just separated from her journalist husband and is also still working out her adult relationship with her smothering parents (dad's a N.Y. politico running for mayor against a woman, mom's an Edith Bunker type). Though clearly an outsider on Nauset, Kate from Soho (she's really ""the hip version of straight"") does start making some connections: working as dental assistant to fellow New Yorker Harvey Cohen; befriending Harvey's utterly unliberated wife Ilene; slipping into casual sex with handsome Carl, the island's only cop. But Carl turns surly when Kate admits her lack of romantic commitment--the obligatory sex-role reversal. And then dull-witted Wilbur Purdy, local family man, stalks Kate . . . and does indeed rape her in her cottage. So the familiar unsympathetic responses to the rape victim begin: crude cops (""After all this commotion, you better have a bloody cunt""); island bitterness when Kate insists on pressing charges (burnt food at the local eatery, a dildo in her mailbox); cowardly refusal to testify by Kate's witnesses (Carl, Harvey); and a general consensus that somehow Kate was asking for it (""All I've ever asked for--ever--is the freedom to walk on the beach, on the subway . . . the freedom to be touched when I say yes and to not be touched when I say no""). Worse yet, when Kate goes home, her campaigning father uses the rape to win sympathy votes (he'll lose the election), and the big city only intensifies her lingering anger and fear: ""I can't start thinking that every man with a cock between his legs is out to get me."" Kate persists with the prosecution, however--and it ends in a mistrial when Ilene (consciousness now raised) announces in court that she too has been raped by Purdy. . . In other words: an awfully contrived, neatly stacked deck of recycled issues; it's no surprise to learn that first-novelist Taylor is a TV scriptwriter. Still, when not scoring points or psycho-theorizing (especially re Kate's father troubles), she writes a drily humorous, brightly specific prose--which somewhat relieves the patness here and perhaps promises fresher, less formulaic novels ahead.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Congdon & Lattes--dist. by St. Martin's