MATING by Norman Rush

MATING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Plaudits for the concept of a woman pursuing and getting her intellectual equal, but, here, gabby and relentlessly high-minded lovers turn Rush's first novel (after the story collection, Whites, 1986) into a meeting of true minds with too long an agenda. When a 30-ish unnamed American woman discovers that her anthropological thesis, which she had come to research in Botswana, is invalid, she decides to be ``hedonic, think passim about my life and next steps'' and ``repose in the white utopia Gaborone was.'' Which she does until she meets the legendary Nelson Denoon, guru of rural development, preacher of a third way for African countries, and rumored to be in charge of a distant village, Tsau, run by and for women. Intrigued by his brilliance and reputation, the woman sets off alone across the Botswana desert, nearly dying in the attempt but finally reaching Tsau. The village is the vehicle for Denoon's ideas about women (``Every female is a golden loom''), religion (religious buildings are banned in Tsau), education, solar power, and just about everything else. The love affair-- exhaustively annotated and dissected all in the first person--is inevitable, and though they make agreeable love and though Denoon is all that he should be, it is the talk that matters--''I love your mind,'' she proclaims. They talk up a storm on everything from the ANC in South Africa to the anarchosyndicalists of Spain. But Tsau is not quite paradise--serpents exist, and Denoon himself changes after an accident in the desert, where he may have undergone a religious experience. Our heroine, disenchanted, returns to the US, but a mysterious message from Africa provokes her curiosity--she might venture another investigation of this most unusual man. In essence a love story, an unusual and credible one, with an exotic locale, and a colorful supporting cast; but the nonstop clever talk eventually provokes irritation rather than sympathy. A flawed novel of too many ideas, many good, but collectively too much.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-394-54472-2
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991




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