CONCERTINA by M.J. Fitzgerald


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Densely composed lyric novel by the author of the story-volume Rope-Dancer (see below). Given brevity by its quick, montage-like cuts back and forth in time, this is the story of Coriola's life: her initial seduction at 17 by a riding instructress; her near-fatal bout with anorexia, from which she recovers at 24; her years as an actress, then as a stripper (including her long liaison with Fanian, the nightclub boss whose sexual fulfillment comes only from photographing her); her marriage, at 40, to William, son of the good doctor who saved her from anorexia 16 years earlier (William, carrying on the tradition, saves her from sexual withdrawal, bringing her to her first orgasm); the birth of a daughter when Coriola is 41, the same year in which Coriola's mother dies; and, finally, Coriola's own death, at age 75. Strongest in its descriptions of Coriola's earlier life (dressed like a man, she goes to strip shows to observe at close range the behavior of the audiences), the novel comes increasingly to be pushed and deformed by its author's insistence on artificial symmetries, leading it on a downward path to melodrama and contrived sensation. Not only is the photographer-voyeur Fanian, it turns out, the brother of Coriola's mother, but the two siblings practiced incest for years; both have monstrously kept this a secret from Coriola, but it will be revealed--amid revelations, further, of the mother's secret conversion to Catholicism--at the mother's death. Other loose ends are tied up (one death is accounted for here, another there), and the author herself, by end, seems to throw up her own hands as well, suggesting ways in which the story might go on, and on. Serious striving for a metaphor of womanhood, but lessened to the trickeries of romance-entertainment by the conventions of genre.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1987
Publisher: Random House