BAD HOUSEKEEPING by Julie Edelson

BAD HOUSEKEEPING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A thickly wrought second novel (No News Is Good, 1986) exploring a divorced, tragically hip, '60s-bred mother's attempts to cope with the challenges of raising '90s kids. Cee, an artist who views carpeting their Victorian home with orange shag as grounds for divorcing her un-hip husband, moves to North Carolina with her children, Ariel (she was reading Shakespeare at the time) and Dash (impetus unexplained). If Cee has faults in her children's eyes, it's only because she's committed the crime, intolerable to adolescents, of being too groovy -- who else in North Carolina has a mother who drives a 20-year-old Citr"en named ""Ze Lemon"" and dates a long-haired singer many years her junior? Things start to fall apart, though, when -- with typical 60's save-the-world aplomb -- Cee appoints herself mentor and muse to Ariel's disturbed and neglected friend Fawne. In an attempt to protect Fawne from the evil influences of her bigoted, Bible-thumping stepfather, Cee includes her in a project to paint the interior of a nightclub. The ensuing breakdown of Cee's supposedly idyllic family unit raises questions about who's the real neglectful parent in this picture. Though the novel appears to be building toward an examination of the problems that arise from saving the world while your own backyard is a mess, it quickly switches instead to a surreal finale where Cee's children actually take responsibility for their own problems and beg their mother's forgiveness for their delinquent behavior. But plot is secondary to this style-driven -- often overwritten -- book. While she produces the occasionally luminous metaphor, Edelson's eccentric uses of language are as often confusing as intensifying (""reprette rags out on an invisible rowing machine, regularly bashing Fawne and chafing Ariel's akimbo like an oarlock""). The result leaves one craving a firmly handled broom to sweep chaos away. Aptly titled, then: an ambitious, but stylistically cluttered, debut.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1995
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Baskerville