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Strangely dated and slightly oafish (reading as if originally drafted some years back, in the heyday of women's-lib tumult), De Vries' new episodic sex-farce is his weakest recent effort: often witty or linguistically endearing, of course, but with none of the inspired flights of Madder Music or Consenting Adults. The essentially unlifelike heroine here is Terra Haute's Daisy Dobbin, who--like the hero of Consenting Adults--is at her best in adolescent yearnings for the finer worlds beyond her drab midwestern hometown. (She and her consumer-activist mother sometimes sneak off to the ""Dionysian beat"" of Grand Rapids.) But then De Vries abruptly moves a decade or so ahead to N.Y., where journalist Daisy is persuaded by old chum Bobsy Diesel (a super-feminist and Will Rogers lookalike) to go undercover for Femme magazine: attractive Daisy will take secretarial jobs (""white nigger"" work), will undoubtedly be promised promotions in return for sex, and will write it all up as an exposÉ of corporate sexual harassment. Her first outing is a fizzle, however: Pembroke Papers Corp., it seems, has been absorbed by a born-again tycoon who's f-filed the place with pious folk. So then it's on to a job at Metropole magazine, part of the empire of Dutch conglomerateur Dirk Dolfin. . . with whom Daisy promptly falls in love. But though the affair is rosy at first--with lots of baroque pillow talk (Dirk tests Daisy's knowledge of theological history)--Daisy is an undercover flop: ""Here she was in the boss's apartment, sleeping with the enchilada himself. . . praying he wouldn't offer the occupational favors and emoluments she had slipped into the citadel to inspire and research."" And, worse yet, she has a rival for Dirk in bitchy colleague Effie. (Daisy's angry jealousy leads her at one point to humilate/seduce Metropole's resident Casanova.) So it will only be after several tiffs--and after a trip home to bolster Mom (in jail for stealing a car as a consumer-protest)--that Daisy and Dirk will marry at last. . . a marriage that is clearly headed for trouble as the novel peters out inconclusively. Throughout, in fact, De Vries fails to generate comic pace or focus: the fun always seems about to take off--but never does. And though individual lines and moments sparkle with that peculiar De Vriesian blend of earthy and literary (plus some Dutch-accent laughs), much of the humor is just plain smirky--with an anti-feminist tilt that's too crude to chuckle away (super-feminist Bobsy also turns out to be super-lesbian). Far from vintage De Vries, then, but devotees will probably find enough sterling turns of phrase here and there to keep them turning the pages.

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 1981
Publisher: Little, Brown