ROKUDAN by Pat Burch


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The first few pages of this small Greenwich-Village-in-the-Sixties novel are close to hilarious: we meet young heroine Ann, who's been living for eight months with clinical-psych, grad student Ben--an earnestly obsessive, exuberantly loathsome character whose crusade to host the ""perfect party"" provides some nicely appalling comedy. Once Ann's (and Burch's) attention moves away from Ben, however, this becomes a mostly routine, faintly unpleasant sex farce, only occasionally brightened by amusing touches as Ann goes from lover to lover. Still with Ben, there's a bit of mate-swapping. Then, as Ben becomes entangled in a side-affair (with morbid Ranghild), Ann winds up with homosexual Tom--who's into s/m (""Tonight was awfully spur of the moment. I didn't even have a whip for you""). And Ben's descent into total weirdness (going in drag to Bloomingdale's) sends Ann into the arms of compulsive, alcoholic Jack--who gets violent and suicidal (and, later, dead), bringing her back, briefly, to Ben and Tom. But next--being Orientally disposed since learning to play the koto--Ann experiments with a series of Japanese lovers: clumsily forceful Miki, in a New Jersey motel (""If the act took place in another state, there was still hope of enjoying it""); 45-year-old, married Yoshihiko Kinoshita, sexually good but emotionally problematic; and Mr. New York 1968--narcissistic bodybuilder Ken Takai (kissing someone so healthy ""was like eating an organically grown apple""). And the novel ends with the focus on Ann's koto-playing--in a thoroughly unconvincing shift from jokiness to identity-quest seriousness: ""It was so hard for her to express her pain, her not very clear-cut longings, her rare and uncertain illuminations. . . . Except through music."" Uneven in its comedy, flat in its more realistic moments: a spotty entertainment with a zero of a heroine--aside from her moveable chin (plastic surgery) she's faceless--but with more than a few sharp, wry laughs.

Pub Date: May 6th, 1981
Publisher: Taplinger