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Scott (Blair, 1989) appears to have misplaced his sense of humor in this slight novel, which would more appropriately be titled Men and Women Who Think About Sex Too Much. The unconvincing opening section, ""Christopher Houghton,"" shows Avery in France with his wife, Gillian. He claims they have not spoken in three weeks, and apparently they are not satisfying each other sexually either, since Avery is so excited by the mere sight of a waitress's childlike hands that he must rush to the restaurant bathroom and masturbate. In Paris, a friend introduces Avery to the red-haired Catherine, who inquires about his poetry and then, at another meeting, gives him an inviting kiss. Avery returns home to Melbourne with his wife and begins a correspondence with Catherine, whose letters overflow with silly sexual adventures, including an unappealing description of a young man watching her urinate all over herself in a bathtub. The following third of the book is narrated by Sorel Atherton, whose husband, Chris, has suffered a stroke. When Sorel reads the manuscript of his recent novella, she finds to her horror that Chris (a.k.a., Avery) has thinly disguised their recent trip to France -- i.e., the book's first section is the novella in question, Sorel is the real Gillian, and she now knows that her husband felt an intense dislike for her before lapsing into unconsciousness. Feeling betrayed, Sorel pressures Chris's colleague, Jeremy Fayrfax, for additional information and discovers that Jeremy has been more involved in the affair with Catherine than was initially apparent. Jeremy narrates the third and final section, which provides yet another twist in a winding road of dexterous surprises. It's hard to work up any interest, however. Scott manipulates his characters with the skill of a grandmaster, but fails to imbue them with any distinguishing traits aside from their sexual appetites. Even the eroticism grows tedious.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Norton