SHE by Maire Jaanus


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Despite interminable analysis, literary allusions, and loads of sexual detail, this pretentious treatment of a tired subject--older-woman/younger-man romance--has little more depth than a TV-soap or a Cosmopolitan write-up. The unnamed narrator, a 40-ish English prof in N.Y.C. (Jaanus teaches at Barnard), is the mildly contented wife of husband #2 Tonu, the loving mother of eight-year-old Kaie. Each year she allows some of her students to develop platonic/intellectual crushes on her. (""I will never seduce a student. Never."") Then, however, ""breathtakingly beautiful"" Adrian makes it clear that he dotes on his teacher's body as well as her mind. There's that first kiss (""my soul's bliss kills my body""), followed by hotel-room consummation: ""We were astounding lovers. . . We fell back in glistening shards. . . We raced to bliss in perfect accord,"" etcetera ad infinitum. At last, in fact, after 20 years of stifled sexuality, the narrator is discovering the varied joys of the body--orgasmic, oral, manual. Furthermore, super-sensitive Adrian is ""not sex disconnected from spirit. He is not phallus, not masculine sexuality. He is whole. . . He supports my dream-self."" So the affair is soon all-consuming; the narrator asks her husband for a separation; Adrian talks of marriage, of everlasting symbiotic oneness. But doubts and troubles do intrude, of course. The narrator worries about long-term prognosis. (""Oh, what if tomorrow he no longer loves me, what if there is only this moment?"") She fears that Adrian doesn't love ""the real earthy me,"" but merely needs her for ""erotic-spiritual intoxication."" Moreover, pressures also come from outside: clinging child Kale; uncooperative husband Tonu; Adrian's possessive Jewish parents. (With his father Adrian ""plays a passive, feminine role. . . of maintaining his dream and ego ideal. Oh, God, how can someone in such thrall become free for me?"") And there'll be extensive relationship-stewing before the sensual forces conquer all, with the narrator and Adrian pledging undying fidelity: ""Vision puts me before you. Touch allows me to be with you. Touch me, my love, then I am with you. Touch. The most humanizing sense. Primal."" A verbose, uncommonly repetitious monologue--light on genuine characterization, heavy on droning, dated sexual dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1983
Publisher: Dial/Doubleday