OUR LADY OF BABYLON by John Rechy

OUR LADY OF BABYLON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Episodic, mock-religious meditation on an eternal whore, by the author of The Miraculous Day of Amalia G¢mez (1991), etc. Like the eternal soldier, this whore appears through the ages at pivotal moments of history to expiate and revisit her sins--her original sins, in fact, since she was Eve. She was Delilah; she was Mary Magdalene. She was Helen of Troy, Madame de Pompadour, Salome, and Medea. As the novel begins, she is the Countess du Muir, who flees the cathedral in which her husband is murdered to seek refuge at his chÉteau. It seems the Pope himself, in league with the countess's treacherous sister, Elena, wants to frame her for the murder, exposing her as a calculating ``whore'' rather than a loving wife. In a series of teas with a dowdy mystic, the grieving widow recounts the lurid dreams she's been having, all of them centering on great men of history who were betrayed by women. Not dreams but memories, says the mystic, and the women were but scapegoats: The label ``whore'' is a hoax perpetrated by organized religion to obscure its own perfidy. At the same time, a scurrilous account of the eternal whore circulates, allowing Rechy to add some pornography to his contrived mix; the widow counterpoints with the truth. The press gathers as the mystic and the countess turn over history, and thus the pretext of the countess's narration is to practice for her interview. She will set the record straight about the bad rap she's suffered for eons: that a sensual woman must needs also be treacherous. There are some compelling scenes, based on nothing but Rechy's imagination, between the teenagers Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot, and Jesus. Otherwise: an artificial, weak performance full of sexual encounters that don't ring true.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-55970-335-0
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996




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