CLASS NOTES by Kate Stimpson


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Harriet, a compulsive seeker of overachievement and great expectations, weathers the usual cultural and sexual jolts before she reaches a heroically tight-lipped equilibrium in this wry kid-to-career profile. In a fantasy autobiography for her college class (1959) notes, Harriet explains that she always tried to be simply ""successful, sensual, and good."" In high school in a small town, ""successful"" for Harriet--and her vicariously aspiring mother--meant impeccable grades (valedictorian) and sterling character (D.A.R. Good Citizen awards). Sensuality was a puzzlement, however, She was not ""popular""--even after a hayride kiss, a term of electrolysis, and a date for the prom (at least she touched that base). Then Harwyn College for Women offers the life of the Mind, but also delivers initial sexual experience with a laconic Frenchman (""Big deal,"" decides Harriet) and an erotic attraction to a classmate. After college, Harriet will have two tatty episodes with men and a lesbian affair ended by her lover's whim. And throughout her career, handicapped as she is by a superego firing away like a gun turret, Harriet learns that she can and must survive to confront the real tragedies of this world and push ""morality."" As for sex-- man delights not her, and as for women. . . perhaps. Although Stimpson detonates all those cultural booby traps so dear to feminist novelists (""It's very normal,"" says Mother. ""It's called the curse""), this offers a few fresh detours from the familiar line of march.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1978
Publisher: Times Books