CLEARCUT by Nina Shengold


Email this review


Erotically atmospheric first novel by playwright Shengold explores interesting sexual possibilities among a rugged threesome.

The place is the isolated woods of the Northwest, the time the Watergate era. Working up in the logging capital of the world as a “shake-rat”—a scavenger of clear-cut stumps to make into cedar roof shakes—Earley, at 29, is a big solitary fellow who lives in a bus overlooking Mount Olympus and rarely appears in bars to drink and pick up women. On his way to shower at a campground, he stops for a rich-kid Berkeley hitchhiker, Reed Alton (“one of those which-is-the-first-name-and-which-is-the-last numbers”), who’s on his way to find a woman he knows working at a local tree-planting camp. The two become buddies, until Earley catches a look at Reed’s gorgeous girlfriend Zan, an adventurous, vibrant young woman who claims to be an Army brat and quickly makes it clear she’s as interested in sleeping with the muscular and 6-foot-5 Earley as she is with the more musically and intellectually inclined Reed. Still, the three hit it off, spending weekends together, smoking pot, frolicking in waterfalls, even sharing Earley’s crowded bed in a ménage à trois, though Earley begins to simmer with resentment at having to share Zan, whom he’s sure loves him more than she does Reed. Shengold has a keen familiarity with this moist, woodsy region of the country, and the sexual tension among the three rough-and-ready lovers resonates thrillingly with the landscape. The growing attraction between Reed and Earley swells organically, until Zan is sidelined to the story’s central male bonding, while the other woman character, Earley’s occasional married squeeze Margie, similarly comes off as petulant and temperamental. A curious state of affairs, but it works, in a fashion that will appeal to young, bohemian readers mostly because of Shengold’s sensitive, credible portraits of the two men, whose emotional honesty allows them to overrule the strictures of a middle-class morality.

A nouveau hippie tale with boldness and spunk.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 2005
ISBN: 1-4000-7969-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2005