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Gee, a young British product of literary academia (Oxford M. Litt. on Surrealism, Ph.D. on the 20th-century novel), frames this debut-fiction with postmodernist gimmicks: Dying, In Other Words is a novel within the novel, supposedly written by the late Moira Penny; Moira is also a character in the novel, dying exactly as author Moira dies; the central narrative is followed by poems and notes by author Moira; etc. But, while such Chinese-box, metafictional games fall largely fiat here, Gee's inner novel--a stream-of-consciousness black comedy--is often stylish, occasionally sharp and funny. Would-be writer Moira, 25, is indeed dead--having apparently fallen from the third-floor balcony of her Oxford bedsitter. So the narrative snakes through the minds of assorted people as they react to Moira's demise. Seedy reporter Les Hawtrey spews out richly parodied tripe in the News of the Weak. (""TRAGIC BALCONY PLUNGE OF LOVE TANGLE BLUESTOCKING."") Old milkman Bill Dutton, who found the body, turns out to be a bygone sex murderer--whose obsessions remain all too vivid. Moira's married lover, ""John X,"" wanders about the streets in guilt and confusion, dying of shock in a freak blizzard: ""quite dead and a wonderful snowy-white angel by early morning."" Moira's self-involved homosexual soulmate, Jean Claude, is terrorized by a local bisexual/sadist hustler. And so it goes--with focus on the hangups and kinks (largely sexual) of Moira's friends and neighbors. Some of this material is--even if read as partial parody--stale and stagey. It certainly doesn't add up satisfyingly, with or without reference to the metafictional framework. But, page by page, Gee demonstrates promise as an ironic observer and darkly lyrical maker of vignettes--talents which would show up far better in a more straightforward, less cutely ""literary"" novel.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1984
Publisher: Faber & Faber