LIVING ALONE by John Givens


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After the farcically surreal Sons of the Pioneers and the darkly metaphysical A Friend in the Police, Givens is having yet one more go at an etiolated, spooky, what's-going-on-here? sort of fiction. And again, stepping gingerly around the edge of preposterousness, he eventually falls right in. This time the format is a numbed shuffle' among the spaced-out trendies of Beverly Hills, as narrated by the no-work-to-do heir to a dog-food fortune. He seeks his ex-wife Louise's advice while she's in bed with other men. He's seeing Blythe, a tiny photographer's-model of stunning vapidity. He has regular sessions with his super-woman therapist, Ms. Bismark, who tinkers with her motorcycle, spearfishes, or sunbathes topless while he drones on. The narrator's only link of stability (some stability!) is his Aunt Dorothy, a mad widow who used to play sex games with him when he was a child; now, nursing-home-bound, she's had a stroke--to which the narrator responds with characteristic focus by having a little sex with the nurse on duty. And the two primary set-pieces of this shapeless satire are a fashion-photo session at a morgue and a pool party that features machine guns and Twinkies. Givens appears to be working up to some sort of ultimate glare here--with a relentless use of similes (skinny-dippers emerging from a nighttime pool look ""like elastic custards come suddenly alive"") and an air of total unreality. But though the intended effect may be ironic chill, the actual result is sheer, stunned archness and boredom--in another thoroughly uninvolving novel from a writer who lacks the storytelling equipment to go along with his satirical inclinations and restless imagination.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Atheneum