JIGSAW by Judy Stewart


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In the short-vignettes style of much alienated-urban fiction--heavy on terse, pseudo-profound dialogue and drab, clinical sex--first-novelist Stewart offers a zombie-like romance which, beneath all the dankly spaced-out trappings, turns out to be pretty standard fare. Monica, 24, is totally bummed out by losing her TV-interviewer job when she meets--through a ""personals"" ad--a 56-year-old recording engineer, widower Ralph. The sex is instantaneous and intense. They tell each other about their dreams and their pasts. Monica, interested in Ralph's work, starts taking guitar lessons. But there are problems: Ralph worries about being too old, mourns his dead wife a lot, and ii jealous (even of Monica's platonic roommate, weird artist Malcolm); Monica's in a stew about finding new jobs; and then Ralph learns that Monica has been paying her dentist bills by posing nude for the porn-selling dentist--which leads to Monica/dentist sex arranged (and watched) by Ralph, who then gets kinky with popcorn in Monica's orifices. Still, the affair continues, with Monica tagging along on Ralph's California business trips (when not getting involved with a phony-guru filmmaker or a sculptor-welder/masseur). And then Monica is pregnant. Ralph, at first unhappy, becomes pro-baby. Should she marry him? Is he too old? Too hung up on his dead wife's memory? Is she really in love or is it just a passing obsession? Well, even though Ralph makes Monica's travel dreams come true (they go to Bali and hear gamelan music), she opts for an abortion, parts tenderly from Ralph ("" 'Hush,' he said softly""), and will perhaps now find less flaky love with someone her own age. Some of Stewart's dialogue and lifestyle details show a talented ear and eye; but the blend of hip satire (the guru is into ""holistic pizza"") and neurotic passion is unsuccessful. And, more crucially, Monica (supposedly a ""jigsaw puzzle"" of a personality) is mostly just a whining bore, a fuzzy center for a novel that falls somewhere between a weak Ann Beattie imitation and an overextended, kinked-up ladies'-magazine romance.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1981
Publisher: Macmillan