SITA by Kate Millett
Kirkus Star


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In this ""notebook"" about her obsessive love affair with a thrice-married woman in her fifties, Millett scours through occasions of commitment, evasion, and advance as meticulously as any contemplative nun fighting death and empty space. The record opens with the beginning of the end of the affair, as the lover, Sita, abruptly dislodges Millett for her ""commune"" of children and a small galaxy of distractions, including sex with a man. Millett, stricken, feels ""the lure of suicide again, the absolute loss of direction. . . ."" But ""I insist upon my sickness. . . because it is mine."" Painfully, even ""tediously"" as she admits, Millett sets down the day-to-day compulsive survival through the complex relationship as Sita returns--to ""give"" once again, although both seem to know the affair will end. Millett pays tribute to Sita in all her rich variety, their explosive erotic intimacies, their gentle, funny, teasing talk. But at the close--a parting wished for, dreaded--there remain the accusing artifacts: this writer, this account. Did Millett want the experience and its analysis more than the loving? ""What if [the journal] becomes bigger than that which it recalls?"" Or did the process of writing exist as a ploy to stay with Sita, to remain in the experience? The solution is handsomely absurd: Millett will leave Sita in order to stop writing her ""notebook."" Throughout there are references to Millett's broken marriage to Fumio, her breakdown and hospitalization, her work for Iranian prisoners, her classes, casual friends; but this is primarily a relentlessly self-masticating explication of the instances in a love affair played out to the last stretches of soul. Millett can write with immaculate economy of vision as in the moment of goodbye with Sita moving away ""like the wind of a fast-moving car overtaking."" Stark, severe, exhausting to read--but it demands attention.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux