I SHOULDN'T BE TELLING YOU THIS by Mary Breasted

I SHOULDN'T BE TELLING YOU THIS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Thanks to luck and editorial madness, young Sarah Makepeace lands a reporter-job at The Newspaper, ""the fucking stalwart of the republic of journalism,"" in 1976--and this uneven, occasionally hilarious novel is Sarah's chronicle of her first chaotic year as The Newspaper's unlikeliest staffer. Sarah, you see, is ""a sixties person,"" a counterculture sort; she's previously written for The Evil Eye (read Village Voice)--and, in fact, got her job while interviewing city editor Ron Millstein about sexism at The Newspaper. Furthermore, Sarah is green, reporter-wise. (Night editor: ""Sarah, what's your lead?"" Sarah: ""What's a lead?"") So there's a good measure of disaster-comedy ahead--as Sarah, stumbling through her first assignments, misses news conferences, gets accidental scoops, writes the unprintable. She's deported to the City Hall beat for a while--where her immediate boss ignores her and she's reduced to covering the Blessing of the Hot-Dog Carts by the Greek archbishop. But somehow Sarah manages to latch onto two hot stories: thanks to document-leaks from her new lover, a married undercover cop, she reports (after believable newsroom warfare) on sporadic AWOL disappearances by the Mayor; later, thanks to a coincidental friendship, she gets evidence of major scandal (a homosexual affair, a violent coverup) involving the top Presidential contender at the 1976 Convention--an unpopular (over-melodramatic) line of investigation which gets her demoted to the food department's test kitchen. And finally, having attracted embarrassing romantic attention from the paper's publisher, Sarah is shipped off to Paris, where she reads that the new Prez has installed his ex-lover in a White House job--a creaky fact/fiction windup. Throughout, in fact, first-novelist Breasted goes astray in mixing a real time-frame with imaginary political figures. Even worse, the newsroom focus is frequently diluted by long, only mildly amusing digressions: overheard conversations (among shrinks, convention delegates, street-people); thoughts about New York City, homosexuals, psychiatry; communications from Sarah's father--who hates The Newspaper. Still, Breasted--a former N.Y. Times reporter--offers wicked, convincing sketches of the personalities and maneuvers at work in a Times-like office: the boundless rivalry between the National Desk and the City Desk (complete with sabotage!); the use and abuse of sources; cartoonish portraits of pompous/sleazy editors; expense-account lunches, biased news angling, freeform ethics. And, though overlong and haphazardly shaped, this is smart, nasty, half-endearing entertainment--with special appeal to New Yorkers and others savvy enough to pick up the flood of insider references and à clef teasers.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row