THE DOG IN US by Marcelle Clements


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There are those eager to compare Clements with Nora Ephron. Not so fast! Only occasionally does Clements hit the highwater marks established by Ephron in Crazy Salad (1975). While many of the pieces in this collection are both insightful, intelligent and entertaining, they suffer from a sameness. The author seems to lead a rather insulated life on Manhattan's gilded Upper East Side which affects her world view. Her concerns are too strictly those of the slightly self-conscious Manhattanite. This does not diminish the strength of her style (and she is a stylish writer), but it does rob her work of a critical element--surprise. We know from the outset what her stance will be and that spoils the fun. Take, for example, her opening essay, ""The Rise of the Mutant Elite."" Clements deftly sketches a sure portrait of mindlessly ambitious creatures she christens ""Mutant Elites."" But then she places them in direct contrast to her friends, who, though charmingly ineffectual, are so insistently and smugly self-doubting that it becomes tempting to root for the mutants. Her topics--a dissection of the various styles of ""cool"" manifested in the '60s; a survey of what her friends choose not to tell their therapists--are clever in the conception, but not compelling in execution as the pages drag on and nothing (but the author's very hip sensibility) is revealed. But when Clements abandons Manhattan to get out into the field, as she does in a piece set in Nicaragua, where she interviews a female member of a Sandinista military patrol, she shows she can clearly handle a good story. There is evidence, then, in some of the better, and certainly the shorter, pieces that when and if Clements takes her journalism more seriously, and works to inform herself beyond the opinions of her 25 closest friends, she'll deserve to command attention.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking