AGNES AND SALLY by Lewis Warsh


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Sally and Agnes are girlhood friends growing up together in Huntington, Massachusetts--until their paths then separate, winging out. Agnes goes to Boston for schooling, meets Jacob, marries, moves to New York, settles into a Manhattan life of editorial jobs and apartment-house anxieties. Meanwhile, Sally stays on in Huntington and marries local basketball-star Bob (who takes over his father's diner). But now, fed up with Bob's philandering and the town's prying eyes, Sally decides to go to N.Y.C. to stay with Agnes for a while. And it soon becomes heavyhandedly clear that Agnes is probably no better off than her unhappy friend: she may not know about her husband's philandering, but she does know that she is inexplicably bored and edgy. Warsh, a poet whose prose style here is flattened and deliberately mutably, tries to give a stereoscopic sense of these characters' mis-perceptions about each other, their crossed wires; he uses such devices as different type-faces for different character-thoughts. But, though there's some ironic effectiveness to this almost-clinical technique, it's also dispiriting--while Warsh's narration is made even less congenial with arch phrasings and verbose/obscure pronouncements. (""But intelligence, like the single marbles of an abacus a baby plays with on the side of his or her crib, reveals its true nature by passing from mere practical usefulness into a form of compassion which is the first sign of wisdom."") An attempt at a sort of wry, modern-relationship blues-novel--but just an enervating collection of tics and postures for the most part.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Fiction Collective--dist. by Flatiron (175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010)