MEXICO BAY by Paul Horgan


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Diana Macdonald, daughter of a genteel and wealthy Eastern professor, is Horgan's crux here, against whom three separate men test their flexibility. Diana marries an epicene but famous and successful playwright named Jack Wentworth; when the US enters the war after Pearl Harbor, he goes down to Washington to work for the State Department. And these Washington wartime milieus highlight much of the book, discreetly acknowledging, among other things, the charged eroticism of the times (uniforms, proximity to death, anonymity) and the way it made many men be larger than themselves. But the novel loses focus as it leaves Washington and moves on rather listlessly. First, bisexual-seeming Jack all but throws Diana into the lap of a vibrant, iconoclastic young painter named Ben Ives. (Perhaps Jack is hoping for a threesome.) Then Ben and Diana run off together to the Texas coast--where the plot thickens into porridge: Ben is falsely accused of a bar murder; he's lost at sea during a storm; and Diana is ultimately rescued by yet one last Washington acquaintance, a young historian named Howard Dobler. Throughout, in fact, the partner-changing plot makes Diana seem a faceless object, tossed from one man to the other. And Horgan's prose is little help, turning from smoothly serviceable to pompous: ""Marjorie sighed. Through her own marriage, she had long learned acceptance as a matter of pride in the visible values of a suitable commitment."" So this is a bland, sometimes even soap-operatic novel; but the evocations of the atmosphere of wartime D.C. are clear and sharp and tangy enough to generate some intermittent energy and interest.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux