MY LIFE AS A BODY by Norma Klein


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The real problem with this novel about the sexual life of a 17-year-old intellectually and artistically gifted teen is not its modestly titillating sexual explicitness, its cultural stereotyping, or the fact that the protagonist sleeps first with a handicapped boy and later with one of her college professors; it is that the novel (and the sex in it) is ultimately so passionless. Augie Lloyd, the daughter of unrelentingly cerebral college professors, attends a progressive school in Manhattan. She has not yet discovered a sexual identity, unlike her outspoken friend, Claudia, an athletic young woman who has always known she was gay. When Augie is assigned to tutor Sam Feldman, a brilliant boy who has been mentally and physically handicapped by an auto accident, she is put off by his bitterness and his affliction, and by his doting parents. However, the two become friends; and when, miraculously, Sam's brain function returns to normal, the friendship blossoms into an affair in which the sexually savvy Sam takes the lead. The affair dies a natural death when the two go off to separate colleges. At college, Augie has an affair with her art teacher, a gentle man whose ex-wife, Augie discovers, is Claudia's new lover. By novel's end, Augie feels freer physically and existentially, having experienced her ""life as a body."" While it's clear that Sam and Augie love each other, there seems little ecstasy in their love, and even less in Augie's discovery of her sexuality. And her college affair is so civilized and detached, it's practically sexless. By the end, Augie seems merely to be a survivor in an age when teens know how to have sex but cannot experience joy.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Page count: 247pp
Publisher: Knopf